There are too many birth stories gone wrong in our society and it is because women couldn't advocate for themselves during labor. I think it is pretty important that women prepare and educate ourselves for birth. Would you run a marathon without training? Would you go into a monumentally challenging situation without prepping ahead of time? This blog post is sponsored by Providence California and is part of their campaign for birth education and advocacy.
In this post, I am going to talk about how I educated myself on childbirth, how I enjoyed an empowered and stress free pregnancy, and how I gathered the perfect team to support me during labor.
The facts about modern medical pregnancy and birth
The medical model of maternity care is actually very new, existing for barely two centuries. Pregnancy and childbirth, previously considered natural or normal, have been transformed into an unnatural condition or illness whereby there is an assumption of risk to both maternal and fetal health.
According to the Healthcare of Women International, the increased use of ultrasounds during pregnancy, fetal heart monitors, high caesarean rates, and expanded use of amniocentesis are a result of the modern medical perception of pregnancy and childbirth. Modern medical practice conceptualizes pregnancy as a time of risk and danger.
In modern medical birth practices, women's lived experiences with pregnancy have been pushed to the periphery, ensuring women's perspectives and insights are rarely told, heard, or given any authority (and this is why modern day story telling such as on social media is really important).
I think it is really important for women to understand this about birthing institutions so that they can make their own decisions about how and where to birth. Many will be ok with this modern take on birth, and others will question it. No matter which direction you take, or what your intuition tells you, its important that you find a birthing facility that supports your own belief system in every way. It is YOUR body and YOUR baby and YOUR birth and your birthing team should be cheering you on and advising you based on your unique situation.
Creating your belief system based on your own research
The first thing I did as soon as I felt less nauseous (gahhh that first trimester was brutal and I started to feel better around week 15) I embarked down the road to an empowered pregnancy and birth. We cannot rely on someone else to explain to us the process of what's happening to our bodies during childbirth. When we go into labor, we go into a trance and it is in that moment when we are most vulnerable. So to have the knowledge about the truth of childbirth already engrained in us, if someone comes to intervene, we or our partner can advocate for us.
Based on my own research, I created my own belief system centered around pregnancy and birth. I questioned mainstream birth practices and dove deep. I read many accounts of birth gone bad and birth gone well from the women themselves, I read books and women's health journals, I studied Midwifery, I followed birth worker accounts on instagram, and I spoke to my own mom about her experiences. I am not a doctor or obgyn, only an experienced birther. So, please do your own research to come up with your belief system.
20 empowering things to remember about pregnancy and childbirth
Pregnancy is a natural process and our bodies know exactly what to do. We are not in danger
Low risk pregnancies require very little intervention
"Mind Over Matter" : Our strength for birth is all in our minds. When we are in control of our minds, we are in control of our bodies. There is a true mind and body connection during birth
Childbirth can be sensual and sexual, bringing the baby out the same way it was brought in
I am in control of my birth and I can decide how and where I want to experience it and who I want to support me
Shared decision making between with my birth team is vital
It is absolutely safe to have a partner-assisted, intervention free birth
Episiotomies are an unnecessary routine
My body IS NOT a barrier to the baby's passage to the outside world
Our bodies are not too small for our babies to be pushed out. Our hips flex open and our highly intelligent bodies do the work
Different people's energy in the room can stall labor
Laying down can stall labor.
We do not need ultrasounds every few weeks
Labor can start and stop, speed up or slow down and still be normal
There should be no imposed arbitrary time limits on the natural process of birth. Birth can take days
I can and should be able to move freely during labor.
If there are no complications during labor, I do not need to be hooked up to a monitor in a bed
I do not have to birth lying on my back in a bed like in the movies. It is normal and safe to squat or stand or however my body naturally wants to push
When my emotional needs are met, there is less risk for the baby
The "due date" is not my due date. It is an estimate. Labor will begin when baby and my body are ready
Learning the facts about my body and what it can do during labor
Ina May's A Guide to Childbirth was the greatest resource for pursuing my empowered pregnancy and birth. Most of my information I stated above came from this book. This is also an awesome resource for coping with pain and navigating the physical aspects of birth.
The first part of the book is a lot of birth stories. My suggestion so that you don't get caught up in it is to read the birth stories until you have read enough and then skip to page 127 Part II The Essentials of Birth. That is where you can find the educational content.
Training for the marathon
I was reeeeally nauseous during the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. The only thing that made me feel better was dragging myself to an exercise class and for that hour, my nausea went away. As soon as I stopped moving, it came back. Saltines in my purse and by my bed helped. And lucky for my husband, sex actually really helped my nausea too.
As soon as my nausea slipped away at week 16, I got back into my exercise class. I only went about 2-3 times a week and it was enough to make me feel really strong again after a brutal first 15 weeks of barely being able to move at all. I felt super fit and I felt like I could run my marathon called birth. And for me, that was really important. I physically wanted to be ready. Birth is mental for sure, but also so extremely physical. I took this very seriously. Obviously, its most important to consult your physician or midwife about this.
In addition to physical preparation, mental prep was also huge for me. My motto for birth is MIND OVER MATTER, because our real strength lies in our mind and our mind is directly connected to our body. It was really important for me that my mind was in full bootcamp training mode and I knew I had to still heal from my first birth which was a 40 hour natural birth. I literally had to get my head in the game. Affirmations helped me do this and I wrote them on my mirror in my bedroom to remind me when I got lost in the cosmos during birth.
Also, the book Fearless Birthing: Clear Your Fear for a Positive Birth helped me get over my first birth which did not go as planned for me. Reading this book helped my mental prep immensely and I highly recommend it!
having the time of my life
Towards the end of our pregnancy, my husband and I really enjoyed ourselves and took advantage of the time before baby was born. We went on two baby moons. One to Malibu and Santa Monica, and closer to birth we went to our fav place on the planet which is the Channel Islands. We went out on countless dates, had lots of sex, and we really lived it up and had precious alone time.
I spent no time worrying about anything. I surrounded myself with love and positivity and nothing fear based. I ate healthy, but I also indulged. I napped when I needed to, I put zero pressure on myself. I know that the baby feels everything I feel, so I decided to live care free and peacefully. Looking back, it was such a precious time for my husband and I and we will never forget it.
Even after we went past our due date, we kept the stress out. He did henna on my belly on the day we got to 40 weeks. We went on fun walks, awesome dinner and breakfast dates, we watched funny movies and shows, and ate really good food. Sperm is a natural cervix softener so we had even more sex. I joyfully worked in my studio packing orders for my customers up until two days before I gave birth. And everything happened naturally and flawlessly, exactly how it was supposed to. When baby and my body were ready.
Gathering my birth team
It is soooo important that we have birth teams and birth facilities that support us according to our belief system during pregnancy and labor.
It is not ok to be herded through like cattle during prenatal visits. We need hospitals and birthing facilities to take the time to personally connect with us during our pregnancies. We need our physicians to help us explore our fears instead of pumping us with fear. We need more hospitals to advocate for us and to help us feel like empowered birthing goddesses!
We need more hospitals to be like Providence California. It was so refreshing when I talked to them prior to this campaign. Their protocol is unlike the other hospitals I have researched. They care about creating a personal relationship with the birthing person. They treat the birthing person with respect and honor and promote shared decision making and minimal intervention. They actually perform Vbacs. And C Sections are never routine.
Here is a hospital that is revolutionizing modern medical pregnancy and birth. This is Providence California's philosophy:
For more information regarding their facilities and philosophies, you can contact them here. And if you have any questions regarding anything I have mentioned, fee free to email me email@example.com. I hope you enjoyed this post and that it can nurture you in your own empowered pregnancy and birth!!