Back in 2010 I wrote a post with some of my hopes for the upcoming birth of my 4th baby. It turned out that many of the things I wanted to experience with her birth didn’t work out. I did get to experience a near-painless birth, but it wasn’t anything like what I had envisioned. So here’s what I’m hoping for with birth #5…
1) Mother Blessing Celebration
With my last births, my co-authors gave me a “virtual mother blessing” and sent me a bonsai tree and beads for a birthing necklace along with lovely messages and prayers for me. It was wonderful. But this time I want a real-life mother blessing celebration with all my hippy/birthy friends (who can make it) physically present. I want henna on my belly, and flowers in my hair, and candles and the whole nine yards. Getting this child here has been a long and agonizing process, and I know I will need a lot of love and support to complete this journey and bring this child earth-side.
2) Singing and Chanting
I’ve learned a lot about singing and chanting over the past several years. I wrote a whole post about singing and birth two years ago. And everything I have learned has got me totally convinced that I will be singing and chanting through my next labor. As we use our voices to sing or chant, our stress hormones decrease, our oxytocin and melatonin levels increase (<—melatonin and oxytocin synergize to improve uterine function and promote relaxation), and our endorphin and natural opiate levels rise to significantly reduce our pain levels. That is some childbirth awesomesauce, people. Some research…
There is a physiologic connection between the vocal cords, the respiratory diaphragm, and the perineum. Vocal toning enhances that relationship and help women achieve focus and relaxation during labor. Of participants who were taught toning in pregnancy, 86% used it in labor. 61% found it helpful in dealing with pain, 42% indicated it promoted relaxation, and 50% said it helped them stay focused (Source, Source, Source).
3) Fetal Ejection Reflex
Ever since my doula training back in 2009 when I learned about Jean Sutton’s research, I have been sort of obsessed with upright deliveries. Jean Sutton, my doula trainer explained, was an engineer before becoming a nurse/midwife. So she applied her understanding of engineering to the human pelvis and determined the optimal maternal stance for the baby’s smooth journey through the birth canal. She argues, “Human birth is an engineering situation . . . . We have tended to ignore the way the maternal pelvis and [fetal] head are designed to interact. Parents should be given the facts about how the process works.” She also says, “In a normal physiological birth, the mother has no need to deliberately push her baby into the world.”
The ideal position to achieve this spontaneous type of delivery, Jean Sutton urges, is with the mother upright, leaning slightly forward, and grasping onto something above her head. With my first three births, I was semi-reclined on a bed with my legs pulled back. With my fourth birth, I was on hands and knees, but it wasn’t at all effortless or comfortable, and I don’t really ever want to do it again. Next time, I want to experience the involuntary “fetal ejection reflex.” Midwifery Today describes this fluid physiological process this way:
The following spontaneous actions then occur: the mother reaches upward for something stable to grasp; her body sags forward and knees roll out; her back arches and she begins to wriggle her lower body; the uterus contracts and forces the baby downward (a series of actions very similar to those during orgasm).
Prehistoric archaeologist-blogger, Katharina, has shared the following drawing of an image from an early Iron Age [800-400 B.C.] situla [bucket-like vessel] discovered in Italy in 2013. She describes the drawing: “The birthing woman is depicted in a standing position, with arms stretched out and holding on to a beam or frame above her head” (Source).
For some reason I just don’t want to leave this life without feeling my body experience this spontaneous process. I think my chances are good since my doula trainer will be my midwife, and she has given birth in just this way with at least a few of her babies.
4) The Breast Crawl
This is something I really wanted to experience last time, but because my midwife was concerned that my oxytocin levels may not be high enough to prevent a postpartum hemorrhage, she urged me to latch my baby right away. I’ve seen photos and videos and heard accounts of the incredible “breast crawl,” but I’ve never experienced it myself. When alert, unmedicated, breathing well, and placed on top of the mother (skin-to-skin between her breasts), most newborns will “crawl” to her nipple and self-attach. In fact, I recently read a study suggesting that human infants were designed to be abdominal feeders–breastfeeding on top of their mothers, using gravity to keep them attached. Perhaps this is why so many women struggle to breastfeed in the beginning? Maybe we’re going about it all wrong? Regardless, I really want to see and experience this process. Assuming my baby is doing well, I plan to allow for the possibility of a self-initiated latch.
What kinds of goals do you have for future births?