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Workshop #1 - Preconception, Pregnancy, Natural Childbirth, and Midwifery

post #1 of 93
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Workshop #1 - Preconception, Pregnancy, Natural Childbirth, and Midwifery

MDC is pleased to welcome you to our first Natural Family Living discussion. Each month we will feature a chapter or section of Peggy O’Mara’s book Natural Family Living for our members, moderators and administrators to discuss. Our first workshop will be on Part 1 – Preconception, Pregnancy, Natural Childbirth, and Midwifery.

We would like to invite everyone to join us no matter where you are in your thinking or feelings. These discussions are meant to be nonjudgmental so please keep in mind when reading members' responses that this is a true discussion based on Natural Family Living and not a place to debate or criticize. Feel free to tell your story; what were your original thoughts on birth? Did they change after the birth? What have you learned (or what would you like to learn)?

We’re excited to offer these workshop and hope it will give our members a glimpse into the grassroots of Mothering magazine and Natural Family Living.

This workshop will be facilitated by our moderators Annettemarie and Arwyn. They are here to guide the discussion and keep it on topic. They will occasionally post references or ask questions to keep the conversation flowing. Please feel free to contact them at any time with questions, suggestions or concerns. Please keep in mind our workshop guidelines and current user agreement at all times.

We are compiling a Natural Family Living Resources Sticky which we will update with each workshop. Please feel free to refer to it for more information. For articles and information on our current workshop, please see the Preconception, Pregnancy, Natural Childbirth, and Midwifery page.
post #2 of 93
Hey mamas! I'm really excited to be helping facilitate the first of the workshops!

This is one area where I've seen a lot of growth and change in my own motherhood journey.

My first baby was born in a hospital. He was induced, and born after a 27 hour medicated labor with 3 hours of pushing. He was finally delivered by foceps.

My second birth, I labored mostly at home and delivered at the hospital. I was there for less than an hour and she came out in two pushes!

My third birth was an induction after a month of bedrest due to high blood pressure. It was a quick and wild hospital birth, and I did have some medication.

My fourth birth was a homebirth. My whole birth story is here, but it was much more wild and unpredictable than I would have expected!

I can't wait to hear everyone's thoughts on preconception, pregnancy, and childbirth.
post #3 of 93
When I was first pregnant, I went in search of a midwife- the only one in the phone book was CNM. I went in and she handed me a welcome pack with formula samples, a hospital book and other stuff I didn't want.

I cried all the way to the car- I could hardly see going home. I couldn't even put my finger on what was wrong. I had been a natural living person for years and yet knew nothing about pregnancy or birth because it was all new. I just knew what I didn't want, not what I did.

But I didn't give up and went looking through alternative magazines and found there was a LM nearby! I met the LM and felt immediately at ease. She gave me a card to subscribe to Mothering magazine and I sent it in right away. Here was what I wanted!

I had a healthy, active pregnancy and gave birth to my dd in my bedroom with the sound of falling rain outside my open window. It was magical and truly one of the deepest, most transformative moments of my life. I felt my own power and connection to all of the universe.
post #4 of 93
When I married my husband in March of '05 all I wanted was a baby. So we played the don't try, but don't prevent game. I had been on BC prior to us getting married and then stopped, because I couldn't remember to take them anyway. So for six months I "tried" to get pregnant (my cycles were predictable and I knew about when I O'd) Finally on the 6th try we got a positive I had a very uneventful pregnancy (although I already knew the next child would not be born in a hospital), but went "overdue" by a week and was exhausted from the 4 days of horrendous back labor. I had an epidural and AROM and had DS1 about 8 hrs after our arrival at the hospital. I had second degree tears from the coached pushing on my back (DS wasn't turned the right way to come out.) I was pretty shaken up from the experience. I never wanted to be put back into a hospital ever again.

Fast foward to pregnancy number 2. I had spent the months after DS1's birth researching my options. I decided to plan a homebirth with a midwife. So when we got our BFP I began planning my dream birth. Sadly that ended in m/c, but one month later I was pregnant again. With a couple of moves (one across country) and lots of stress, I ended my pregnancy with a wonderful midwife-attended homebirth with no tearing and a perfect baby

I never thought in all my 21 years I'd be as crunchy as I am. I find I'm attracted to doing things au naturale and encourage those around me to research their options no matter what they think they want!
post #5 of 93
With DS I was induced at 41 weeks with pitocin. I had an epidural and was forced to deliver in the supine position. DD was born unassisted and drug free. I followed my instincts during the labor and birth and I birthed her in a squatting position which eased her passage into this world.
My view of pregnancy and birth changed so dramatically after I had DS. I'm so glad it did.
post #6 of 93
I honestly can't remember whether natural living led me to natural birth, or the other way around. Well, I suppose I started life with the vague idea that natural birth and environmentalism were good (I grew up hearing my own birth story, in an Alternative Birthing Center in a hospital, how the doctor wanted to administer pitocin after birth and my mother said "Wait a moment" and put me to her breast, and I latched on right away and she never needed the shot), but hadn't really thought hard about either.

Then maybe 6 years ago, I watched a woman, a dear friend of mine, walk into a hospital with the vague idea that natural childbirth was good, and was prevented from walking around, bullied, drugged, cut, and left powerless and in pain. I cried all the way home, saying this is not how it should be. That experience got me looking into becoming a doula, and from there I learned about cloth diapers, and wool, and natural health care, and organic foods, and dangers of vaccines, and vermicomposting, and MDC, and now here I am, doing things I'd never even heard of seven years ago, and scoffed at five years ago. So I have that traumatic birth (just seeing it!) to thank for getting me here; for me, natural living and natural birth are part of a whole, a philosophy of life that is grateful we have high technology and interventions, and strives to sparingly and wisely put them to use only when necessary.

I know I have so much left to learn about birth, even as my library is stacked full with books, and my time largely devoted to hearing others' stories. I enjoyed my birth so much, I wish I could go back and do it again (and again and again) - not have another baby, just experience that time again, all that pain and power and beauty and bliss, feeling my child slide through me and enter the world, singing baby, oh my baby, oh my Brisen! I want that joy, that power, that bliss, that love for every woman, for every mamababy, even as I know that my path to it isn't right or appropriate for everyone, and I want to devote my life to helping create a world where women know that it is their birthright to have that joy, no matter what interventions they might also need.
post #7 of 93
My experiences with my each of my daughter's births were like night and day. With my oldest I read an awful lot about pregnancy and childbirth but I don't think I was reading the right things. I was petrified of the pain of childbirth and wanted absolutely no part of it. I thought people that gave birth without drugs were nuts. I had many people tell me about their fabulous epidurals and that it is the only way to go, so I skipped the childbirth classes figuring what did I need them for if I was just going to get the shot in the back anyway? Well, when my epidural didn't work and realizing that the only person that was going to get the baby out was me and I was going to feel every minute of it I felt as though I was stepping off a cliff. Her birth made me feel small, bewildered, alone, and with no control of my body. It felt so invasive and impersonal. I also tore badly and it took months to recover. I felt traumatized by the experience and was positive I would never have another child if that is what it was going to be like. I couldn't watch someone give birth on TV because I would become really anxious and cry.

4 years later, after doing a lot of homework, I decided that I wanted to give it another shot. I really think (and I know this sounds terrible but it is kind of true) that the only reason that I got pregnant again was to prove to myself that I could "get it right" this time around and have a healing birth. I opted out of my long-researched decision to have a homebirth (financial/insurance reasons and gave birth in a "baby friendly" hospital. And it really was. And boy did I seem like a total pain in the butt for these people. I gave a copy of my birth plan to everyone that walked by, made it very clear about what I did and didn't want, and had complete control of my labor and delivery from the start. They were very supportive of me and my choices, and I have to say that my LO's birth was more sublime than I could have imagined. Drug-free, annoyance-free, intervention-free, complete with a spa-like setting and a big huge tub . Within hours, I felt as though I didn't give birth at all.

See what I mean by night and day?

I so wish that all women can know what it is like to feel confident that their body knows what to do and how empowering it is to make informed choices for themselves and their baby. That it is ok to question authority. That it is their body, not the hospitals, not the doctors, not their midwives. No one but their own.

I am so excited to be a part of this workshop!
post #8 of 93
My first birth was traumatic. I was not educated, then bullied, cut, had my water broken, was refused pain relief. Forced to labor on my back covered in machines, I was so exhausted the only thing that saved me from a C-section was the nurse PUSHING on my abdomen to keep her down between contractions. Humiliated and bleeding they stitched up my 4th degree tear and pretended everything was okay.
But I was so convinced by society that birth is dangerous and I had been saved from some worse fate by modern medicine, that even after researching homebirth I was terrified and ran back to a hospital 4 yrs later to have DD.
I was left feeling empty, like there must be something more.
DS1 was born to a much more educated mom. Still in a hospital, but it was an insurance issue and finally not FEAR.
No drugs, a couple pushes, they even sent me home early. I felt so strong.
So DS2 was born beautifully and quietly AT HOME. Now that I know better I will never willingly subject myself to a hospital birth!! I use every oppurtunity to talk about my experience, and when my lifestyle changes, plan to study as a midwife, so I can share it with others!!
post #9 of 93
As soon as my husband and I decided to TTC, I started to educate myself about pregnancy and birth. I read a ton of books, chatted with a natural-birthing friend often about birth, and watched birth videos. I knew from the start that I wanted a natural birth.

When I got pregnant, I decided to use a CNM at a birthing center connected to the hospital. She was okay at first, but after a while started talking about how it was okay to have an epidural and she tried to push a bunch of prenatal tests on me. I started to have a bad feeling about having my child at the birthing center. I saw her up until I was 32 weeks pregnant, when I decided to instead have a homebirth with a CPM. It definitely felt like the right decision.

I had a pretty long and very difficult labor and birth, but it was all worth it to be able to be at home! All in all, it was a beautiful experience. If/when we have another child, I will homebirth again.

post #10 of 93
It's a funny thing, really. I started having sex at 16, got pregnant for the first time at 19. For those first three years, I used nothing but the pull-out method and the occasional condom. Never got pregnant. I went on birth control when I married DH, and I took it religiously. I was pregnant within 3 months.

Even though I was sick a lot through my teen years (I was bulimic, and suffered complications from my eating disorder that left me in and out of a wheelchair for nearly a year-- I had just started getting out of it for good when DH and I got together) I had always looked forward to pregnancy. It just seemed like such a happy time, and i was confident that, despite my struggles with weight, I would be able to have a happy and healthy pregnancy and enjoy watching my belly expand.

And you know what? I was right! I had an extremely healthy pregnancy. I took great care of myself. I felt better than I had in years. I loved every minute of it, even the aches and pains. People probably thought I was nuts! I was just so happy that I couldn't bring myself to complain.

Warning: This is NOT a happy story.

I had planned a UC. DH was on board. I went into labour around 42 weeks. I was so excited! I was finally going to meet my baby! Labour was... labour. It hurt, sure. But I never once thought "Gee, I wish somebody would come stick a needle in my spine to make me numb from the waist down!" ... The thought of any drugs in labour was so far removed from my mind by that point that it just seemed absurd.

I had a long pushing phase. almost 6 hours. I could still feel my baby moving inside of me, so I just thought of it as a variation of normal. After all, I had talked to women who had pushed for much longer, and everything turned out fine.

Finally, she was crowning! It took me a while to push her head out, and after it was out DH discovered that the cord was compressed between her shoulder (major shoulder dystocia) and my pelvis bone. He called 911.

They finally got the baby out, and rushed ust to the ER (she was on a seperate ambulance. I hadn't got to see her). I was in such a state of shock that I couldn't process what was happening. Doc reached INTO my uterus to retrieve the placenta. I hemmorhaged. I nearly bled to death. I had a blood transfusion. Later, I found out the baby hadn't made it. It was the worst day of my life by far.

I am currently on my third pregnancy (had one m/c at 10 weeks in between). Things are going well so far. I am planning a homebirth with a wonderful midwife. I am not against UC, but it's not something I believe I could ever do again. I spent too long blaming myself.

I am hoping for a very healing birth experience. I've learned so much. I still worry maybe more than I should, but I have not lost faith in myself.

I was made for this.
post #11 of 93

Soooooo... Preconception

What do you do to get ready before you're actually pregnant?

I have to admit this is an area in which I fall short. Each baby, I vow to do better, but I never do.
post #12 of 93
Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post
What do you do to get ready before you're actually pregnant?

I have to admit this is an area in which I fall short. Each baby, I vow to do better, but I never do.
Before I got pregnant, I started exercising more, eating better, and taking prenatal vitamins.
post #13 of 93
Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post
What do you do to get ready before you're actually pregnant?

I have to admit this is an area in which I fall short. Each baby, I vow to do better, but I never do.
All mine have been surprises. I'm not quite sure what I'd do short of making sure I was eating right.
post #14 of 93
Ideally, I would lose about 50 pounds. I never quite lose it after the baby before, and just add to it with each pregnancy. I sometimes wonder if my pregnancies would any easier if I wasn't carrying around extra weight.
post #15 of 93
I got off my psychotropic medication. That was my big goal before getting off birth control and starting to TTC. The medication I was on had a small but significant increase in the risk of spinal cord defects (spina bifida, etc), which I am already at statistically increased risk for, having a high weight. I was willing to be on it during pregnancy if needed, but I didn't want to if I didn't have to.

Getting off it was one of the best things I've ever done. I already had built up a large support network, and put in hundreds of hours in therapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture, getting mentally stable. I started fish oil, and worked with a holistic OD who specialized in mental health to wean off the drug. I also started taking prenatal vitamins regularly, and switched to organic milk (which lead me into the world of organic and whole foods), and made a few other diet and lifestyle changes that were mostly about getting stable, but were also good ideas for TTC.

The fish oil made all the difference, and I discovered worked even better than the psychotropic I had been on. The side effects of fish oil were healthier hair and skin, reduced risk of inflamatory diseases, better fats for my baby's brain, and real, enjoyable mental stability. The side effects of the psychotropic were never ending appetite leading to massive increases of weight, increased risk of birth defects in my baby, and shakey, moderate amounds of mental stability.

I also got off birth control pills, and in learning about fertility and charting for conception (my cycles took months, and much acupuncture, to return after getting off the hormones), I learned why I will likely never go back on them.

As a side effect of getting off the psychotropic medication, I lost significant amounts of weight, but it wasn't something I was trying to do, or felt was a goal before TTC.

There was a lot I didn't do that I wanted to before conception - I wasn't able to replace metal fillings, for instance. But I did what I could to help create a safe, healthy space for my child to grow in.

A book I really recommend preconception, about environmental pollutants in the procreative cycle, is Having Faith - an Ecologists Journey to Motherhood by Sandra Steingraber. I love that book.
post #16 of 93
Before I had kids, I came from a big family that always bf and co-slept and were pretty AP. They talked a lot about birth, too. I had a myomectomy at age 16 and I was told I would never be able to have kids. It was pretty extensive and they weren't optimistic, but I was determined and went to grievance court to refuse a hysterectomy.

3 weeks later I got pg with dd #1. She was a miracle. Surprisingly, my family was pretty supportive. I knew I wanted a natural childbirth. I had been in a CNA program and had a lot of hospital experience and after hearing everyone's birth stories, I knew that I did not want a c-section or medications. I knew that my ggrandmother was a midwife and her mother before her and my family all had natural births and that was what should be.

After 9 months of fighting with my doctors to refuse a c-section and countless second opinions by leading ACOG surgeons, I won the fight even though they weren't supportive. After this birth, I knew I could do it. It made me feel like a woman. It wasn't a very empowering birth in many ways as I didn't have the right to get up or do anything but stay in a supine position even during birthing. But to be able to tell them after 3 hours of pushing that if they cut me they better run was empowering. That was my decision and they listened to me that one time.

3 months later, I got pg with ds. They told me they would have to induce me because my 1st baby was so big I wouldn't be able to birth a bigger one. I trusted them mostly because my defenses were so worn down and I had no support. My ds was premature with some delays-neurological and digestive. They miscalculated my due date. I almost died after birth. This birth taught me I couldn't trust anyone. I *knew* my doctors. Why did they do this to me? Did I not have any rights to my own body?

With dd#2 (baby 3), they induced me again and I was stupid enough to let them. It was an uneventful birth, but still made me wonder why I had no right to refuse an induction or any interventions without being dropped from care.

With dd#3 (baby 4), I did more research. I knew that people used to do homebirths as we watched videos of them in my nursing classes. But I was told noone could anymore. After meeting some wonderful people who actually had one, I thought I was too high risk. After months of trying to find a doc who would take my insurance, I got the worst imaginable. The original CNM I had put me under every test imaginable and scared the bejeezus out of me. Then the doc told me he would have to try to force me into a c-section every single visit because he was afraid of liability and they lied to me about my GBS status and placenta previa. I got sick of it, researched, found some midwives who were all too busy or not "the one" and decided to do a UC. I wanted one all along, but dh was not comfortable with it.

After needing to transfer b/c of pph afer my UC with her, I was able to refuse most things but it has just set in my mind even more that hospitals and most doctors do not care about you. You're seen as a patient ID number without feelings and they truly believe you must be stupid. I have learned that home is the only place for me to give birth and I wish more people knew it was an option and that you don't have to birth in the hospital and only YOU should choose everything about your birth and your body and your baby!

More than anything, this birth taught me to trust my instincts and to believe in yourself. For the first time, I truly saw birth as a completely normal, natural process and it was very healing in that way.

Sorry about the novel!
post #17 of 93
It's so cool to read all of your experiences!

DD1's birth was a nightmare. I knew I wanted a natural birth, in a birth center. I knew we'd breastfeed, and not be separated at birth. I knew I didn't want any interventions or 'procedures' done to her. Well, after a full day in back labor and a less than supportive and informative midwife, we transferred to a hospital, had pitocin, and epidural, the whole thing. Abby was born very jaundiced, and as a result was separated from me and put in a billi bed. We had to stay in the hospital for 5 days, during which I slept a total of 10 hours. I averaged 2 hours of broken sleep per day. I wasn't allowed to take her out of the billi bed except to nurse her every 3 hours. She would cry and I couldn't comfort her. It was the start of a horrible horrible cycle of severe depression. We had a multitude of nursing problems, sleep problems and tummy problems. I know at least some of that is to blame on the horrid birth, and part of it was because of my own stress and anxiety, due to the ppd.

When I got pregnant with dd2, I knew it would have to be different. I planned a homebirth, and everyone thought I was nuts. They all assumed that after what happened with dd1, I would want to be right there with drs. After all, what would we do if dd2 had the same problem???!!! I knew it would happen though, and it didn't. I found an incredible homebirth midwife, and with a calm certainty assured me that I COULD do this, and that everything would be great. It was. My whole birth story is at http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=848018. It was beautiful, peaceful and empowering. I can't wait to do it again, to bring another life into this world.
post #18 of 93
Both of my children were born at home. I knew long ago (when I was in 4th grade, I did a project on Sacagawea and learned through is that she gave birth squatting and that made so much sense to me - to let gravity help) that I would have my babies at home; that was sort of a thing when their father and I got together - I told him in no uncertain terms that if we were having kids, they'd have to be born at home.

DS's birth was a little over 7 1/2 hours of active labor. I woke up in labor in the morning and after only 45 minutes of pushing, he was born in our living room in the afternoon sunlight.

DD's birth only lasted a little over 3 hours of active labor. I barely pushed twice and out she came. DS was there, which is exactly what I wanted.

We used the same m/w with both children and were very pleased. The first go round, we wanted a little more handholding than she offered, but with DD, I knew the routine and was ready for it. I believe the next baby I have (without STBXH) will be born unassisted - there is one more little person out there yet to come into my life and I will do that labor and birth alone.

I had mild PPD with DS and no one would take me seriously. I finally gave up trying to get help and just muddled my way through. With DD though, it was SO much worse that I *had* to seek help. Thankfully, through a great counselor and some much dreaded meds, I have been able to not only function, but shine and grow since DD's birth.
post #19 of 93
I'm a newspaper reporter, and a couple of years back I was covering a story involving a lactivism issue. Our web site was suddenly overloaded with thousands of hits, and I traced them back to MDC.
Man, what an eye-opener. I had never really thought about childbirth before, and I sort of vaguely wanted to have kids, oh, ten or so years down the road. When I did, I assumed I would have painkillers because, hey, pain is a drag and there's no downside to it, right?
But I got really fascinated by all of the birth stories, especially the homebirth stories. They resonated with me instantly and powerfully and I knew that when the time came, that's what I wanted for my own delivery. I don't think I had even really heard of homebirth before that (or if I had, I probably filed it away under "crackpot"), but as I was reading those stories I experienced an instant paradigm shift.
Exactly one year ago today, I conceived my son. It was totally unplanned, which was odd because I'd always been really careful about birth control. But even though it was a surprise, everything seemed right. Great guy, great relationship, both stable in our careers, not getting any younger. It so quickly turned into a joy.
I knew I wanted a midwife assisted birth, so I got some recommendations and started making phone calls. At that point I was thinking I'd go for a birth center; I had some vague impression that it would be safer.
There was one midwife I had heard really good things about, so I got her on the phone and asked if she would attend a birthcenter delivery. She said she only did homebirths, and told me that a birth center was basically a homebirth you had to drive to.
We made an appointment for later that week, and I went into hardcore, full-blown research mode. Research is something I do well, and I found a wealth of information -- about the cascade of interventions, about how hard it is to have a truly natural birth in a hospital setting, about the safety rates of hospital versus home births, about the experience of giving birth in your home setting. By the time the interview with the midwife rolled around a couple of days later, I was 100 percent on board with the homebirth.
My partner was worried about the idea of homebirth at first, though he said it was my choice and he trusted my judgment. The more he learned, the more he warmed up to the idea, and now he's a big proponent himself.
Immediately, the standard of care with the midwife was different than anything I'd ever experienced with a doctor. First off, she just took my word that I was pregnant. Now, I could tell that I was pregnant before I even took the home test, but I wanted some medical authority to tell me that, yes, I really was pregnant. The midwife was so relaxed about the whole thing, and it was the first lesson I got in trusting your body.
My midwife was great, very calm and practical and kind. When I heard people talk about their brusque ten minute prenatal visits with the OB, it seemed so different then our leisurely hour visits, where I would slip off my shoes and settle into the couch and talk.
I had an easy pregnancy and a wonderful, gentle home waterbirth. There was pain, but it really wasn't that bad. And more than that, it was an incredible and empowering experience that ended in a healthy baby boy. Within minutes, we were nursing on the sofa and I was in love. I wouldn't have changed a thing.
I've always identified as a feminist, and it seems that to a large degree feminism has forgotten to include childbirth in its work. I like to think that I see signs of that changing, and that natural, normal birth is becoming more prevalent.

Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post
What do you do to get ready before you're actually pregnant?
Erm, honestly? It involved one very large bottle of bourbon.
post #20 of 93
Originally Posted by *MamaJen* View Post
Erm, honestly? It involved one very large bottle of bourbon.

In my (most recent) case it was vodka.

Cool story about tracing back to MDC.
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