I was chatting with another birth-loving friend the other day about how we “thought we knew so much” the first time we attempted “natural” birth. I had definitely studied and prepared myself, but, seven years down the road, I can’t help but see my first-time-mother self as a naive birth novice. That was the beginning of my childbirth obsession, but I had no idea back then just how deep the “rabbit hole” was going to go… and still it goes deeper.
Each of my births has been an improvement upon the last one, with fewer interventions, faster recovery, more intense bonding, etc. So, naturally, I’m looking for ways to make birth #4 even better than the rest. I will be seeing the same midwives I chose for my last birth, Mary and Nedra. I tried to be open to intuition and inspiration about choosing a care provider. I didn’t want to choose out of habit… just because I chose them last time. But my gut always came back to them. I don’t think I could feel safe enough with anyone else, and it’s so nice to not have to start from scratch because they already know me, my family, my body, my house. Plus they’re phenomenal midwives (see my old blog for a post I wrote all about them). So… drawing on all that I’ve learned over the last seven years, and assuming that I remain low-risk and complication-free throughout the duration of my pregnancy and labor, here are my plans, hopes, and goals for this next birth…
This is something I’m still trying to wrap my mind around. While I believe childbirth is supposed to be hard work, lots of power and pressure, intense, etc., I don’t believe it has to be described as “painful.” I’m trying to open my mind to the possibility of painlessness. I’m trying to change my perception of those labor sensations. Hypnobabies or hypnobirthing would probably help me with that process, but I’m not sure yet whether I want to use their programs. I take a lot of encouragement from reading Rebecca’s story.
For whatever reason, I feel really driven to keep this upcoming birth as private as possible. Last time I wanted to be surrounded by support… my doula, my sister-in-law, my husband, my midwives. But whenever I visualize the birth of baby #4, I see the opposite. I almost always see myself inside my closet, pacing, crouching in the corner, leaning on my husband, but I hope to keep other observers to a minimum (until the pushing stage). Of course I will consent to whatever monitoring my midwives need to do, and I will ask for their help if I feel I need more emotional or physical support, but I’d like to make this birth a more intimate experience.
I tried to keep lights to a minimum during my last birth, but I think there was still too much light. Next time, I’d like to try to labor in almost total darkness (which makes photographs pretty tricky, I know). If I’ve learned anything from Michel Odent it’s that laboring women need to keep their primitive brains in instinct-mode and their rational brains off. It’s my understanding that darkness helps keep the rational brain off. It also promotes the release of melatonin which synergizes with oxytocin to make labor progress more efficiently.
4) Upright delivery
Every time I have pushed out a baby I have been semi-reclined on a bed with my legs pulled back. Next time I would really like to try another position, preferably upright, possibly kneeling while leaning over someone or something. I want to experience the involuntary “fetal ejection reflex.” I haven’t decided yet whether I want to be in the pool while pushing.
5) Open-mouth delivery
I’ve been listening to a series of podcasts of an interview with Ina May on my morning runs this week. Today I heard her describe the importance of having a loose, relaxed, open jaw while pushing. Her years of midwifery experience have reinforced her belief that what’s happening with a woman’s mouth and throat correlate with what’s happening with the cervix, vagina, and perineal tissues. Tension in the face (and voice) usually indicates tension and tightness in the genital area. It’s hard to remember these things when you’re in the throes of transition, but I want to try. Loose, relaxed, open. Loose, relaxed, open. Loose, relaxed…
6) Daddy catches?
My husband has had a hard time with blood his whole life, but each birth has gotten progressively easier for him. He feels like he might be comfortable enough now to catch baby #4, assuming there are no problems or complications that would necessitate our midwives doing the job. My ideal would be for the two of us to catch the baby together, both of our hands guiding our child up immediately to my chest. I really think the intensity of our parent-child and husband-wife bond would be magnified by that kind of experience. I can’t imagine anything more sacred than that. (My 4-year-old has said she wants to be present as well, so maybe she could help Daddy too?)
7) The breast crawl
I’ve seen photos and videos and heard accounts of the newborn’s 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 try.
8) No baths
We didn’t wash my son until the day after he was born–just rinsing his hair with water and wiping his body with a wet washcloth. It was about a week later that he had his first shampoo. But next time I plan to delay the first bath further and the first shampoo even longer. The more time I can spend inhaling my baby’s freshly-born scent, the more intense I believe our bond will be. This is part of why I hesitate to plan a water birth. I don’t want any of that smell to be washed away! And I don’t want to have to get out of the tub and into bed before I can facilitate the breast crawl. I’d rather push my baby out and then immediately recline in a comfortable, dry, warm place.
All this talk is getting me really excited. I can’t wait to feel my baby unmistakably moving, watch my belly grow, give birth, and bond with that baby. There’s just about nothing cooler in the world, don’t you think?