I'm so excited to have Donna with us today. I found her
blog via my pregnant sister-in-law who found her site to be a
treasure trove of information. One thing that I love about Donna, and
I hope she won't mind me saying so, is that she's this wonderful combination of Texas cowgirl and passionate birth advocate. This is
so awesome! Natural birth doesn't have to be a "crunchy" thing; every
woman, no matter her style, or niche in society should have a natural,
healthy birth! It makes me really happy to see all sorts of women awakening to the benefits of natural birth. Donna gives some wonderful, thoughtful answers today; I think you'll really enjoy her perspective. The title of your blog “Banned From Baby Showers” is so intriguing. You mention that you think that baby showers
tend not to treat birth with reverence, and thus, you chose not to participate
in them. Why do you think the cultural
ritual of baby showers exists as it does and what would you recommend to women
looking for a different way to welcome babies into the world?
I saved this question for last, which is funny since it's the first question! You are a wonderful interviewer, Amy. Your questions are thought-provoking and bring to life what someone is doing and how others can apply it in their lives.
I have never really given thought to the solution to the American Baby Shower. It is such a nice gesture to buy things for a mother-to-be. We all know people that are having their 3rd girl and are having another baby shower. What could you possibly need?! Baby showers seem more like a solicitation of gifts to many of us -- me included. But that is not why I do not attend baby showers.
Welcoming a new baby into a family is the most reverent event a family can experience. Baby showers are usually filled with awful birth stories, laughing about inductions and c-sections, and horror stories about bloody, blistered nipples. They even make games centered around these topics. You've probably played the candy bar/concentration game that when the “epidural” cards match up, you get a package of Lifesavers. (I always get the Lifesavers and I refuse to eat them.) Baby showers are the manifestation of all the mis-information out there. I always want to turn it into a childbirth class, in which it falls on deaf ears. I can't keep my mouth shut, I'd like to keep my friends, and frankly, people are happier not knowing why they should care about how their baby gets here. It's easier to not take responsibility when it comes to giving birth.
The solution? I don't know. How do we bring the c-section down from 33%
When I have had friends or students that are having an unmedicated birth, they are concerned about the discussion at their showers. Some have politely stated that they would only like positive, uplifting stories to be shared. Same with the games. This is not 7th grade. We do not have to make fun of bodily functions to talk about how the body works. It should be treated with a reverence and respect for how our Heavenly Father created us as women. Medicine rarely improves upon this process of labor and birth and usually does more harm.
Speak up and let your wishes be known about what kind of shower you'd like to have. And if this is your 2nd, 3rd, 4th baby, treat it as a welcoming of this new life instead of a gift-giving affair. The atmosphere will automatically be more respectful, and you might even have better attendance!
Yet, your approach to birth and parenting is less mainstream. Do you find yourself straddling two worlds or are you seeing more “crossover,” with otherwise “mainstream” women seeking out what are normally thought of as “alternative” birth options?
Amy, I have to tell you, it's not just country music, but Tim
McGraw! I am quite the fan, to say the
least! I love
Over the last couple of years, I am happy to report that I
am seeing more “crossover,” between “mainstream” and “alternative.” There have
been several birth movies come out in the last couple of years (“The Business of Being Born,” “Orgasmic Birth,” “Pregnant in America” “Born in the U.S.A.
The progression seems to go something like this: Watch a birth movie. Enroll in a natural birth class. Possibly change care providers/locations who support natural birth. Have an amazing birth. Breastfeed. Start cloth diapering and making your own baby food. Wear your baby in a sling. Co-sleep or bedshare. Before you know it, you have gone from “mainstream” to “crunchy” without even realizing it!
My focus as a natural childbirth educator is to reach the mainstream and help them understand that this is not about being “crunchy” or alternative. It's simply about doing what we, as women, are made to do. Our bodies are amazing, and to numb the experience of childbirth is a shame. We avoid drugs throughout the pregnancy and load up in labor. It doesn't make sense. “Mainstream.” “Alternative.” “Crunchy.” How about just “Woman.”
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was all about the drugs. I didn't want to know anything. I was terrified of giving birth. I had absolute confidence in my doctor – he does this everyday and I've never done this. I read the standard “What to Expect When You're Expecting” and “Your Pregnancy Week by Week.” I took the hospital class which prepared me to be a good patient. I had the classic American birth. Epidural, every intervention under the sun, fetal distress from the whole ordeal, and barely escaped a c-section with the help of my sister-in-law who happened to be a doula.
Between my first and second babies, I learned a lot! I had friends that were giving birth without medication and having these amazing experiences. I started reading better books (!!) and took a Bradley class. I gave birth without intervention or medication with the second birth and it was truly a transformative experience. I did this thing that everyone said I couldn't do! I wanted to tell everyone I met, “Hey, I gave birth without medication. You can do it too!”
I had a water birth at home with our third baby, and it was after that when I just knew I had to do something with this passion. Birth is just amazing and women spend their whole pregnancy fearing that day instead of embracing it. I hope that my enthusiasm rubs off on my students. Yes, birth is hard. I am the first one to admit that, but you come out stronger on the other side. I've seen relationships fostered through the hard work of preparing for labor and self-confidence and self-esteem blossom in so many women. I want this for all women. Ultimately, what's good for mom is good for baby.
My latest form of activism is starting the Tarrant County Birth Network, a chapter of BirthNetwork National, with two other birth professionals in the Fort Worth area. It is a non-profit organization that promotes Mother-Friendly care based on the CIMS (Coalition for Improving Maternity Services) guidelines. It will serve as a resource, both online and within the community, where expectant couples can get evidence-based information and connect with the care providers that provide Mother-Friendly care.
I have a saying. Anyone who reads my blog is familiar with it: Education and a supportive birth team are the keys to a happy, unmedicated birth.
- I think it is crucial that a couple take an out-of-hospital class, whether it's Bradley, Hypnobirthing, Birthing From Within, etc. Hospital educators have their hands tied when it comes to the information they can give you. They prepare you to be a good patient, but you don't really get the full story on the risks of inductions, fetal monitoring, epidurals, c-sections, etc.
- Practice the relaxation you are taught in class. This is awkward, no doubt. Do you want to practice in the privacy of your home when it's just the two of you, or when you're in labor and the nurses and midwife are watching you?! Even if the mother wants it absolutely quiet (there's no way to know how she'll be), she will go to those relaxing places in her mind in labor. It also helps build confidence in your body and your ability to relax. Imaging yourself relaxing in labor, during pregnancy, is very beneficial.
- Hire care providers that see birth as a natural process. A lot of doctors will tell their clients “I'll do whatever you want me to do,” with the clause, “as long as everything is going ok.” I'm not really happy with that answer. There's no reason to think the natural process can't take care of itself. Dr. Bradley's attitude sums it up best: The doctor or midwife should act as a “lifeguard” -- observing but not interfering. He expected his couples to be trained in normality, and he was trained in abnormality. His c-section rate was 3%. Birth is hard enough with a supportive birth team cheering you on. It's nearly impossible when you are surrounded by people who don't believe in your abilities to birth your baby. There is no room for fear in the birth place.
Can you give us a list of your favorite birth education and preparation books? Maybe even some attachment parenting books, too. Any that you think are crucial for moms to read.
I do have a list that I give my couples. It's very simple, really.
Dr. William Sears is the author that started me on this path of natural birth, breastfeeding, and attachment parenting. Anything he has written I highly recommend.
Anything by Ina Mae Gaskin, CPM, will build confidence in this process. Her approach to birth is so sensual and exciting. You cannot read her material and fear birth.
What kind of Bradley teacher would I be if I didn't mention “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way ” by Susan McCutcheon? I usually tell my students that if they are only going to read one book, this is it.
“Mind over Labor ” by Carl Jones is a great little book with lots of relaxation exercises that make it easier to practice. His commentary is also inspiring.
Another book I recently stumbled upon is “25 Ways to Awaken Your Birth Power .” It is a book and CD set. The artwork is amazing. You can have your partner read to you, or you can pop in the CD and have it read to you. Again, embracing of the birth experience -- left with feelings of excitement and not fear.
A subscription to Mothering Magazine is a must.
My 3 books I recommend for a library after having a baby:
1) The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears
2) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding – La Leche League
3) Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child by Zand, Rountree, and Walton
Donna, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and so much great information with us today. Keep in touch!