Monthly Archives: February 2014

How Fear Affects Labor

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So you’re nervous to have your baby?  You’re not alone!  The truth is, most moms, especially first time moms are scared and sometimes even terrified for the “big day”.   I know, because I was terrified too!  My coping mechanism was to read about how to calm myself.  I’m so glad I did, because in my search I learned what fear does to a mother in labor…

Every human has a nervous system with two parts, the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic systems.  The Sympathetic system is triggered when we are stressed, or afraid.  Our bodies use this pretty much to save our lives.  When we are afraid it will send a message to our brain to either run like hell, freeze, or fight to the death.  Makes sense right?  Otherwise this poor guy would have never made it…

fight or flight

Look at him!  His nervous system is triggered. His pupils then dilate, his heart rate increases, and everything that isn’t needed to save his life shuts down.  Literally the arteries going to his organs are closing and sending that much needed blood to his limbs.  What we don’t always realize is that this happens whether there is actually a massive ferocious animal chasing us, or whether it’s actually our brother-in-law in a Sasquatch costume!  Meaning, even if your fear is perceived, your nervous system reacts the same.

Women, what doctors don’t tell us is that our uterus is one of those organs that will shut down if you are feeling a massive amount of fear.  Usually we do not have the option of fighting (except the occasional woman who double-foot kicks her doc in the chest.) or running away (although I’m sure its happened.  A woman can’t run too far from her own body though.)  So what happens?  We freeze.  Its all our nervous system knows to do at that point.  You’ve heard the stories.  “My uterus wouldn’t open”  or the doctors say you have “failed to progress”.  (Although other reasons they say that is a topic for another day.)   Sometimes that is a very real thing that is happening.  And yes that message to your nervous system can still be sent whether you have an epidural or not.  You are just not feeling it.  With narrow arteries it is very hard to get the blood and oxygen that your body needs.  With a cervix that won’t dilate, there can be a good amount of unnecessary pain to the mother and extra stress on baby.

So what is the answer?  We do not need more urgency to “move things along”.  We need more awareness of the importance of being calm, relaxing the very best we can, and having faith that your body is doing something very natural and good and OK.  Yes, it is possible to look like this during a good chunk of your labor…

peaceful mom

My husband is an animal lover and often he tells me about what it’s like when animals have their babies.  “They wait until they are in a comfortable place, out of danger, and they relax.  They lie down.  They breathe.  And they have their babies.  Their bodies just do it.  No one teaches them.  They just know.  They just do it.”   I believe that God created us as even more developed and capable beings.  I believe if we got out out of our own way, and resolved our fears, we would deliver in a very similar way.

For more info on how to overcome your fears and relaxation techniques to do during labor, you all know I recommend Hypnobirthing.  This link is to the Utah Hypnobirthing site.

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“It’s Eve’s Fault That Childbirth Hurts”

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adam and eveIt’s Eve’s fault that childbirth hurts.

True or false?

I can tell you that I had always believed that was true.  Right?  Eve partook of the fruit and because of it she was cursed that “in sorrow [she] shall bring forth children”.  Today many people believe to experience childbirth without pain would be contrary to the word and will of God.

It wasn’t until I read HypnoBirthing that I learned that even Hebrew scholars would disagree.  Let me directly quote what I have read…

“The Hebrew word etzev, used sixteen times in the King James I version of the Bible is translated to mean “labor, toil and work” throughout most Bibles, but when the same translators referred to childbirth the word was interpreted to mean “pain, sorrow, anguish or pangs.”  Other scholars point out that the prophets made no such reference to pain in their writings of childbirth.  They state that there was never an actual curse placed on Eve… Previous to this time of the Bible being translated there was no mention of a curse, except God’s curse upon the ground and it’s implication that humankind would now have to work to survive.”

Pretty crazy right?  So why would they interpret etzev differently in that one circumstance and not the others?

It’s important to understand the attitude in the world at the time of translation.

Around the end of the second century A.D.  women were looked at with much disdain.  And very important religious leaders, even the Christian theologian St. Clement of Alexandria wrote; “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.”  Any woman laboring was banned from receiving any sort of medical attention even in complicated birthing situations.  She was not considered among the “deserving ill”.  She was labeled a seductress and her pregnancy was seen as the product of “carnal sin”.  The laboring mother was isolated, without support and terrified.  Are things beginning to make more sense?

Before this time, they recorded that there was so much more evidence to support the idea that women have, for centuries, had their babies naturally, quite easily, and within a relatively short period of time.  Historical records of the period just prior to Jesus indicate that “births were often accomplished in less than three hours.”  These scholars would cite many references in the Bible that extol the blessing of motherhood, the procreation of life, and the affection between husband, wife and children.  Mankind’s original outlook was that childbirth was a very sacred thing where everyone gathered around a woman in the temple for a “Celebration of life”.  Does that sound like God intended for it to be a curse?  Laboring women were honored respected and deeply loved.

Marie F. Mongan, the author of Hypnobirthing, said after finding out she was pregnant for the first time:

“I could not believe that a God who had created the body with such perfection could have designed a system of procreation that was flawed.  So many questions prevented me from accepting the concept of pain in birthing.  Why are the two sets of muscles in the uterus the only muscles that do not perform well under normal conditions?  Why are the lesser animals blessed with smooth, easy birthing while we, the very highest of creatures, made in the image and likeness of God, are destined to suffer?  And why are women in some cultures able to have gentle, comfortable births?  Are we women in the Western world less loved, less indulged, less blessed than they?  It didn’t make sense to me logically or physiologically.

Even more importantly, I could not believe that a loving God would commit so cruel a hoax as to make us sexual beings so that we would come together in love to conceive and then make the means through which we would birth our children so excruciatingly painful.” 

I don’t believe He intended for it to be.  I believe in a loving God.  I believe he wanted us all to come to earth through Eve making that decision. It is my personal belief that He celebrates with us during our labors and I especially felt his presence with me as I first held my gorgeous daughter.

“To those who say it is just not possible to birth naturally and without pain, I say, “But what if we’re right? Wouldn’t it be wonderful?”” ~Lorne R. Campbell, M.D.

#1 Tip To Having A Successful Natural Birth

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Ok, here it is… If you are going to have a successful natural birth, and not only birth, but labor, pregnancy, and a good happy successful life in general,  this is your greatest and most important key.

Are you listening?

TURN OFF or CUT OFF your fears.  Nip them in the bud and walk away without looking back.

Let me explain…

A couple months into my first pregnancy, middle of the night, I decided to venture out into the World Wide Web to find out what it was going to take to get this ‘Blessed Miracle’ out of me.  Yowsa!  Seriously, word of warning to first time moms:  DON’T DO THAT!   And whoever is posting their horrific YouTube videos, stop it right now!  I think I filled my whole room up with tears that night!  Not cool.  Watching those videos was a trigger of fear for me.  TURN IT OFF.  Honestly, I would watch even some very low-key HypnoBirthing videos that were probably incredible and healthy, maybe even “easy” births.  It was still a trigger at the time for me.  Hormones and all, I just would get more nervous seeing it and imagining being in that woman’s place.   Some women might gain more strength from seeing births in all their glory.   It didn’t for me.  I stopped watching them all together.

Find out what it is that is letting your fears creep in on you and ELIMINATE IT from your life.  Cut it off at the source and find something that instills your Faith in your goal and soak it up.  Immerse yourself and keep access to it with you at all times.  For me that was my HypnoBirthing book.  I would open that any time of day to relax my mind and fill it with positive encouraging words, free of fear and worry.  It worked, and each time my fears would calm and I became a little bit stronger.

let your faith be bigger than your fear

This goes for conversations filled with the ‘What if’s’ and the horror stories of crazy things going wrong.  Nothing about that is uplifting.  Nothing about that makes you feel better prepared, and lets be honest, the ‘What if’s’ rarely happen, and those horror stories are filled with a lot of emotion that might be making the story a little different.

There is a quote from Robin Johnson that says, “I think I began to fear childbirth almost as soon as I could understand what it was.  I would hear women’s horror stories that always seemed to have a fish tale quality to them, and I would question whether or not this was a club I wanted to join one day.”  Don’t join the club.  Change the topic of conversation.  Ask about some other aspect of their lives.  Move forward with that voice inside that tells you it will be okay for you.  It will.

Also, decide right now that anything that stresses you or worries you isn’t allowed in the room wherever you birth.  For some, that is a person who might not believe in you, or has their own fears that they bring with them.  Some people are just plain stressful for you.  You know who they are.  Let them stay away until your little one is here safely and you have done what you need to do.  After you have experienced what you have, invite them in to share in the celebration part.

It took me awhile to recognize what things brought fear into my mind.  If you can recognize them now, turn it off and cut it off, you will have more space in your mind to fill with your faith.  The more your mind is fixed on a positive happy healthy birth the more that will become a reality for you.

“Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware… To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.  She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.  ~ Grantly Dick-Read, Childbirth Without Fear

 

What exactly do I mean by AU NATURALE?

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OK.  So, what is it that you are imagining when someone says she wants to have her baby naturally?  Do you picture her just squatting down in the dirt, popping out her baby after a hard day of work and carrying her baby home?  Because believe it or not that happens in this world.  Yes, women do that.  (Minus maybe the baby “popping” out part!) I had no idea until I started reading HypnoBirthing.  The Author asked a woman what her tribe tribe in Africa does to have their babies.  This was her matter-of-fact reply:
“What’s there to tell?  The women have their babies.”  After more persistence from the author she said,  “The laboring mother goes about her usual daily routine until she feels the baby begin to move down.  She then leaves what she is doing and finds a wall or support to lean her back against.  Propped in this way, she extends her knees and crouches down, with her lower arms and elbows resting on the upper part of her slightly bent legs.  As the baby emerges, she leans down with her extended hands and says, “Baby come.”  She receives her own baby.”

african woman and baby

Literally that’s it.  Women do that.  And any woman who has, holds my deepest honor and respect.

OK though, that is not quite what I had in mind when thinking of bringing my little lady into the world.  For me my idea of it was to let my baby come on her own, be born in her own timing and not have anything hindering that.  I also wanted to feel it all.  I believed my body was made to do it and that I didn’t need to interfere with what was going to naturally happen.  We were both healthy and fine, and to me I didn’t see a reason to worry about any of it.  I believed that my body would do what it was supposed to do.  So that’s what “natural” meant to me.  I mostly am referring to not being induced and not getting an epidural and having tons of random unnecessary interventions like forceps (ugh!).  I obviously understand there are always special circumstances where those things might need to happen.  And yes, if my baby was in danger I would do anything to keep her healthy and safe and would say “yes” to whatever needed to happen.  Many women plan on a natural childbirth and end up having an emergency c-section and it might be very hard for her.  I understand that happens, my heart goes out to her.  That could have easily happened to me.  Plenty of women try and change their mind.  Still, what they learned in the process of preparing helped them anyway, and there is no judgement there or reason to be sad about preparing for it.

On this blog I have left the phrase “natural childbirth” vague for a reason.  I purposely am giving you the opportunity to define what that means for you.  Honestly there isn’t a whole lot in the world more natural that a woman growing another human inside of her and then bringing that baby into the world, however he/she gets here.  So you decide whatever “naturally” means for you…

Maybe it looks like this…

laying down in hospital bed

Or this…

hospital birthing ball

or maybe this…

at home waterbirth

and this…

waterbirth baby

My little girl’s birth looked a little more like the first two pictures, and I hope that my next deliveries look a little more like the last two.  They might.  They might not.  I want to follow my heart and feel inside what I think is right.  If there is anything I have learned from natural childbirth it is that our bodies know more than our minds know.  Trust it.  Let it be. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.  Have faith and follow your heart.  If you can find any sort of comfort from what you find here, than take it and hold on to it and gain strength from it.  If not, than move on until you find what you are looking for.   I wish you the best experience you can have.