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,


A Woman MD/OB Who Believes in Odent, Oxytocin, & Physiology?

25 10 2011

My previous post drew controversy that I would dare contradict Dr. Amy in insisting that Dr. Odent was right about birth physiology, namely that mammalian birth involved the BONDING hormone Oxytocin, which is in fact different from the synthetic variety, best known as Pitocin.  The issue was basically that Odent was supposedly an out-of-touch misogynist for tricking women into believing they were birthing goddesses when they really aren’t, guilting women into undergoing the pain of childbirth. And oh, btw, Oxytocin doesn’t actually bond people and Pitocin does exactly the same things for the body. Right.

Enter “troll” (not my label) Marlo. She is vocal in the anti-NCB community and feels that pain-free childbirth is a lie, Michel Odent is an unapologetic sexist and not a man of science nor a respected doctor. We did a back and forth in comments in my previous post, and she had this to say:

“Find me some women OBGYNs who are down with it & have them guest post.”

Ask and ye shall receive… I may not have a guest post from Dr. Buckley (yet?!), but I do have her response to the topic, as it is easily available. Enjoy!

Sarah J Buckley is a trained GP/family physician with qualifications in GP-obstetrics and family planning. Dr Buckley has presented at numerous conferences in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada, lecturing to midwives, nurses, physicians, obstetricians, doulas, and childbirth educators…

And of course, our man Odent has a fabulous endorsement of the respected Doctor:

“Sarah Buckley is precious, because she is bilingual. She can speak the language of a mother who gave birth to her four children at home. She can also speak like a medical doctor. By intermingling the language of the heart and the scientific language she is driving the history of childbirth towards a radical and inspiring new direction.”

Michel Odent MD, author and natural birth pioneer

Already we have TWO respected doctors who believe natural birth, oxytocin, and mammalian physiology are not just myths. Odent was discredited for his age, for his beliefs, and even for having a penis (“men will never understand“, Marlo holds). He was accused of being a general surgeon, and not an OB, even though Odent did his initial training in general surgery and was in charge of the surgical unit and the maternity unit at the Pithiviers state hospital (1962–1985). Now, Dr. Buckley is a woman, has had home births, and is qualified in the field of obstetrics. Let’s hear more of what Dr. Buckley has to say:

Perhaps the best-known birth hormone is oxytocin, the hormone of love, which is secreted during sexual activity, male and female orgasm, birth, and breastfeeding. Oxytocin engenders feelings of love and altruism; as Michel Odent says, “Whatever the facet of Love we consider, oxytocin is involved.”(1)For the baby also, birth is an exciting and stressful event, reflected in high CA levels (27). These assist the baby during birth by protecting against the effects of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and subsequent acidosis.

Undisturbed birth is exceedingly rare in our culture, even in birth centers and home births.

Two factors that disturb birth in all mammals are firstly being in an unfamiliar place and secondly the presence of an observer. Feelings of safety and privacy thus seem to be fundamental. Yet the entire system of Western obstetrics is devoted to observing pregnant and birthing women, by both people and machines, and when birth isn’t going smoothly, obstetricians respond with yet more intense observation. It is indeed amazing that any woman can give birth under such conditions.

Synthetic oxytocin [AKA PITOCIN] administered in labor does not act like the body’s own oxytocin. First, syntocinon-induced contractions are different from natural contractions, and these differences can cause a reduced blood flow to the baby. For example, waves can occur almost on top of each other when too high a dose of synthetic oxytocin is given, and it also causes the resting tone of the uterus to increase (33).

Second, oxytocin, synthetic or not, cannot cross from the body to the brain through the blood-brain barrier. This means that syntocinon, introduced into the body by injection or drip, does not act as the hormone of love. However, it does provide the hormonal system with negative feedback—that is, oxytocin receptors in the laboring woman’s body detect high levels of oxytocin and signal the brain to reduce production. We know that women with syntocinon infusions are at higher risk of bleeding after the birth, because their own oxytocin production has been shut down. But we do not know the psychological effects of giving birth without the peak levels of oxytocin that nature prescribes for all mammalian species.

For more from the very esteemed Dr. Buckley, read her article on Ecstatic Birth. Or is she just a misogynist idiot, too?

Getting High Off of Birth

28 09 2011

My birth is not your party.

Talking to one of my Twitter friends, a fellow unassisted birther (we actually had our UCs on the same day!), I heard her say that she would love to attend a homebirth but sadly, does not know anyone right now who she could tend. She had said things here and there which had shown me we weren’t exactly the same in our philosophies, but my automatic reaction to the want to attend a homebirth is “WHY?” Of course, instead of saying that, I just sort of posed to her my feelings, such as “maybe it’s a good thing” (that she doesn’t have anyone to tend right now). Naturally this started some brief discussion about birth physiology. She did seem to disagree with me on being observed vs. feeling observed.

As you may already know about me, I feel that the primal instincts of a woman and her conscious mind do not always agree on how labor should be approached. When your body and brain are tapped into that state of being, I don’t care how much you love, trust, or respect people… having people present can create a feeling of being observed, which is detrimental to your peaceful labor. Even video cameras can produce this effect. It’s about stimulating the neocortex. If you have to kick your husband out, it doesn’t make you subconsciously distrustful of him, or any less of a woman, or cast doubt on your overall confidence in self or relationship. It’s just a part of nature. Yet, many unsuspecting women think it’ll be all hunky-dory (ew, hate that phrase) having people there. The surprise that this is not the case usually comes too damaging, too late. You can’t turn back time, you can’t take it back. The badness has begun. It changes an entire labor rather easily. The tension starts. The domino effect gets into full swing. Good luck coming back down from that, even with the power of your glorious mind.

Of course, there are those who are social butterflies who adjust better. People who are very uninhibited, performers of drama and theater, people who feel a “need” to be told they are doing well– these are the sorts that seem to do well having onlookers.  Sometimes their primal mind still reacts and this creates friction, but they don’t connect A to B. Sometimes they still feel good, seemingly unaffected by the environment, but I feel these are more rare. Question if any pain you felt in labor, any tension, may have been relieved on the physiologic level if your attendees had been simplified, reduced, absent? We would have to admit and assume that this is possible, if we are being honest with ourselves.

I’m a private person and a little inhibited. I would say I’ve always known and sensed my need for modesty or privacy in labor. I’m also strong and self-assured, and although I love flattery and encouragement, I believe in myself enough to go on by myself.

These are not intended to be judgments on others, but truthful observation of personalities, perceptions, and the science of how birth works with brain/body.

The primal rejection of others is GOOD. It’s survival and preservation instinct. But you have to heed it, or labor could turn ugly.

I understand this is probably offending people. People who like to be tended to, thought it was necessary or enjoyable, and those who have previously tended people may feel defensive over this, or discount what I’m saying as all wrong. Wait, I’m not done!

People love birth. People learn about birth. People start worshiping strong women, and beautiful newborns.  It has a magical, romantic feeling, does it not? People like to soak in that vibe, be part of the moment, “capture” the moment.  But at what cost? At what cost are people trying to get high off of births? If you don’t yet know what I’m referring to, read this to start you off.

This is why I hesitate to lovingly use phrases like “birth junkie” or call myself one.  “Birth nerd” is probably more appropriate for me. Unfortunately, I think there is a climate of true “birth junkies”– people who truly and nearly indiscriminately feel the desire to experience that birth high off of other people. I love and respect birth and the birthing space, want women to feel strong and babies to be born peacefully. I learn all I can to know about how to achieve this for myself and others. In having this knowledge, I am not so selfish that I would have to make myself a part of your magic moment and intrude on that to possibly ruin that.

“Did she just call me selfish?”

Well, maybe, but don’t get mad yet. It’s not what you think. I don’t think everyone is knowingly selfish, so because of this, maybe selfish doesn’t even apply. I, however, feel that because I understand what a mammal needs to feel safe in labor– I could not in good conscience violate that. It would be selfish of me, knowing and believing these things.

My midwives asked me to leave them when I confessed my need to UC. They said they “didn’t see the point” in continuing prenatal care with me. They also said they really “wanted to be part of my special moment”, wanted to “be part of my healing and empowerment”. It’s true, these women are enthusiastic about and love babies. Love to hold them, brag on them, meet up with moms and babies they served later… very kind, warm, maternal stuff. But, what I needed, what I knew I needed, was not being respected or adhered to. That right there dis-empowers me. You’ve automatically reduced me, and disregarded my and baby’s needs.

Midwives have this feature a lot. I think they are birth junkies, a lot of them. They soak up all the good vibes of the birth and bask in the glow. They love it. It’s a beautiful moment, and provides a high. Life, creation! And they, at the helm! The exchange of chemicals in the room seems palpable. But, this is not your high. This is not your moment. It is the laboring woman’s, based on her needs, what her baby needs. I desired prenatal care– that was the point of continuing to see midwives, for me. But, if they couldn’t be there for the magic hour, they wanted out.

Sometimes it’s a liability issue. Sometimes it’s a money issue.  Sometimes it’s about missing that high. Sometimes it’s a combination of these. But the problem is, my Oxytocin and my private moment to adjust and transform isn’t to be shared around. We aren’t passing the blunt. And, if you keep it from me– MY birth high, my very needed chemical reaction for my good feelings and overall safety– that is extraordinarily hurtful. This has a devastating impact on the woman, the baby, and the collective female psyche, if you ask me.

In a moment of anger I equated these feelings which midwives have to a sense of psychological vampirism. It’s a strong analogy but even while calm now, I feel it makes sense. My critics, however, instantly latched on to that. “Oh, she doesn’t want the midwives stealing her precious birth vibes!” Yeah, well, these same critics would easily admit on any separate occasion where my words were not involved that midwives are birth junkies, AND it would be said with disdain, so I give those hens no credit for pecking at the first and slightest chance. One thing we could actually be in agreement on, but instead opposition is chosen. Please, let’s give credit where credit is due. Let’s admit that many midwives are indeed birth junkies and in fact, it is what drives most to that profession.

Recently I read how one of my favorite singers, Erykah Badu, plans on trying to become a midwife. She’s always been a spiritual person, one who understands and believes in energy, female power, etc. I have a lot of respect for her. But this is what I am working with:

She talked about coaching a friend through a 52-hour labor and realized, “When I saw the baby, I cried. I knew what I was supposed to do with my life.”“Nothing gives me more pleasure than being the welcoming committee for a mother’s new joy,” she said.

A benign statement, right? I mean, just what is my problem? But, read the words again, carefully.  It is pleasurable. They feel in awe of the experience, they feel powerful in your power, they feel like gods watching over creation– especially when put in a position to be encouraging and coaching you. They are the ones helping you get through this. They are in control. They are the sanity amidst possible tumult. If not, voyeurs. It’s a birth high. You’ve entered someone’s magic.

Again, I don’t think these people have bad intentions. I think they see something beautiful and want to help, and to experience. I don’t think they mean to be “vampires”. It’s all that good, maternal earth mother sweetness. BUT, what I am trying to relay is, there is an exchange of energy happening here that whether you realize or acknowledge it or not, it may be having a negative impact on the birth you are attending.

One of my friends who is pregnant recently joked (I think it was a joke!) that she would love to have me come and be her doula. I said I would agree, but warned her that this would entail me telling her she could do it without me and leaving her alone (unless an emergency arose).

I would be honored for anyone who wanted me at their birth, much in the way midwives and doulas feel honored in serving, and I would do my best to be good to them. It would also entail pretty much the above. I am knowledgeable enough to lend a helping hand, but I would not dare intervene unless you absolutely needed me to.

I don’t think doulas and midwives are necessary at a birth. I think we just lean on them for lack of confidence.

On Twitter, I of course told Erykah that if she is becoming a midwife, to please pick up some Odent. I haven’t heard back (lawl).

But, please, can we stop getting high off of other peoples births?  Birth junkies get hooked on that feeling and they need to let it go. Being an advocate for women means putting her first, and not bumming off of her. Her birth high may come once in a lifetime. It is the greatest of all highs she will ever receive in life. How many birth highs do birth attendants get? How many get them (unbeknownst to all present, themselves included) at the expense of the mother’s birth high? Break the habit.