Friday, September 24, 2010

Birth Story From a Midwife's Perspective

This cool story was sent to us by Stephanie Fritz, a midwife in Arizona. She has written it in the form of a letter to the child.

Dear Kaytlyn,

This letter comes to your from your Grandma Fritz, my first name is Stephanie, but Grandma Stephanie seems too long to say, and you already have another Grandma Fritz--either way, when you get older, you can call me whatever you want. I was your mom’s midwife and mom through her pregnancy and your birth. Your mom and dad wanted me to be with them at home as they welcomed you into this world, but you had a little different plan. You must have been so excited to come to your new family that you decided to be born 12 weeks early. You surprised us all, but it was a wonderful and awesome experience that I was honored to be a part of. I want to share with you the story of that great day.

I will actually start your story from the week before you were born. Your dad was staying at our house in Sierra Vista, because he was going to Cochise College near our home. He would come on Sunday nights and stay until Thursday afternoon. On Monday night June 25th you gave your mom a little nudge by starting contractions. She went to the hospital in Safford and the doctor wanted her to get the very best care available, so they decided to give her a helicopter ride to Tucson. Your dad and I and your aunt Whitney got in the car and drove to Tucson. We got there at the same time the helicopter was landing. Your dad was so happy to see your mom. She was in great spirits and not a bit worried. The doctor gave her some medication to stop her contractions, and to help your lungs develop.

She stayed in the hospital for a few days just to make sure her labor stopped. Your mom kept her positive attitude, and was reassuring everyone else that everything would be okay. She didn’t let any fear come in at all. She stayed in the space of faith and trust and love the whole time. We talked about what your name would be. You see ever since you were first conceived I called you Liberty. I thought it was cute for you to be Liberty Bell. Everyone else kind of laughed, but soon that is was everyone, even your mom and dad called you. Your mom was afraid you wouldn’t like it when you grew up, so we were trying to think of a middle name to soften it a little bit. I mentioned Ewa, because that is your great, great, grandma’s name. As soon as I said her name, I was filled with the spirit, I knew then that her spirit was with us, and had been throughout your mom’s pre-term labor. Your mom felt it as well, and your dad said he liked that. Nothing was decided on, but there were definitely good feelings around it. It was comforting to know that Grandma Ewa was with us even from the other side of the veil.

On Thursday, the 28th your mom was able to go home. She said she was so excited to sleep in her own bed. The doctor said she had to be on bed rest, that means she could only get up to shower and go the bathroom, and eat, other than that, she had to stay laying down. She and your dad came to our house on Saturday to spend the week, and that way I could take good care of your mom. Well, it didn’t matter how much she stayed down, by Sunday night around 6:00 you were giving your mom lots of nudges. You really wanted to be born even though it was early. Your dad and grandpa laid their hands on your moms head and gave her a blessing. I knew at that time you were going to be born tonight. We decided to drive directly to Tucson to the hospital there, because your mom didn’t want another helicopter ride. I guess she thought once was enough and it wasn’t very exciting for her, so I drove your mom and dad in my car, and your grandpa (Big Daddy) and aunt Whitney drove your mom’s car. Your mom lay in the back seat contracting every 2-3 minutes. She was singing “I am a Child of God” to you. She was trying so hard to stay relaxed and calm. You have such an amazing mom. She would squeeze your dad’s hand every time she had a contraction, and your dad would tell her how great she was doing.

As we were driving to Tucson, I offered a prayer in your mom’s behalf. I prayed this would be an easy birth for her and we would have many angels attend us, and that the doctors would be guided by angels. I prayed that I would hear the whisperings and promptings of the spirit to know exactly what to do for you and your mom. I prayed for confidence and strength for your mom and that you would come into this world happy, content and most of all safe.

When we got to the hospital your mom wanted to take one more picture of her belly with you inside her, I think she must have know it would be the last one of you inside her. As we got settled into a room, my heart was smiling, I could see your dad was taking such great care of your mom. The love he has for her is obvious, it is overflowing. He was helping her with counter pressure on her back; that seemed to make her feel better. By the time the doctor came in to check her she was already dilated 10 cm. and you were coming out feet first. The doctor said your mom would have to have C-section because it was too risky to deliver a breech baby. Your mom was so sad; she wanted to have you at home and she didn’t want a C-section. She got on her hands and knees to try to help you turn, but there just wasn’t enough time. Your dad and grandpa gave your mom a priesthood blessing, and it was confirmed that all would be well, that you would be strong and healthy and everything was in Heavenly Father’s hands. This blessing was one of comfort and peace we soon realized Heavenly Father had a very special day already picked out for you to be born. We just didn’t know that it would be 12 weeks early.
I was pushing on your mom’s knees and your dad was giving counter pressure on her back, this helped your mom a lot, and relieved some of the intense contractions. Your aunt Jamie came just in time to say a prayer for you and your mom. It wasn’t long before they wheeled you away for delivery, and as they did your grandpa pushed on your mom’s back for a minute, and that made your mom so happy.

Your dad went into the operating room with your mom to see you born. He as so worried for you and your mom, he loves you both so much. He stayed right beside her, and was very attentive to her needs. Whatever she desires was his pleasure to serve. The doctor gave your mom some medication so she could not feel anything. They put a drape in front of your her head so she couldn’t see you be born, but your dad is so tall, he could look right over and tell your mom exactly what was happening.

Your mom and dad lovingly welcome you into this world at 10:23 PM on July 1st, 2007! Weighing in at 2 pounds, 8 ounces, and 14 ¼ inches long. You are so very tiny, but we are so grateful you are here and so strong and healthy. We welcome you with more love than you know what to do with. Do not ever doubt the strength, and power of your mom, she is truly amazing.

The doctor came back to the room that we were waiting in and told us the good news. There were tears of joy from everyone. She said your mom has a very unique uterus. It is like a two room uterus, so this explained why you came so early. You basically grew out of our warm and comfy home you had known for 28 weeks. There was no room for you to grow or even turn around. You could grow better outside where you had plenty of room, instead of inside your mom’s womb. We were so happy for this explanation, and now we could be grateful for the C-section, because we would not have known this otherwise. This information will help your mom when she gets pregnant with your brothers and sisters. Your mom was so strong through your birth, and your dad was very sensitive and loving. Their bond is very obvious, and they immediately welcomed you into a loving family when you were born. You are a very lucky girl to have such devoted and loving parents. I hope you cherish them throughout your life as they cherish you.

The next day we all gathered in your mom’s hospital room and your mom and dad announced your name. Both of your grandparents were there, and your aunt Jamie and uncle Preston and Whitney. We all gathered around and your dad announced that the name they had chosen for you was Kaytlyn Ewa Bell. We all cheered, and I was smiling from the inside out because I knew your grandma Ewa was there with us. She had been with you since the beginning, and was there by your side always. She is the angel Heavenly Father sent to escort you to this earth. Your name holds an abundance of love. It is filled with blessings and promises that will be a comfort to you in times of need. I know Grandma Ewa holds and comforts you through this journey. Kaytlyn Ewa Bell, treasure your name, love your name, and honor your name, for it is more than just a name, it is “your” name and it is your heritage, both in this world and the one beyond the veil.

Kaylyn, you are the greatest miracle in your life, and you were born for greatness!
Thank you for the gift you gave to me and the lessons I learned.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Real Killer

16 Things, originally uploaded by ruth™.

Every now and then I hear about the (thankfully) rare case of a woman who dies in childbirth. This is tragic to me as someone who understands loss (especially of mothers) on a deep level. However, today I want to discuss what is really killing pregnant women. Something that is not often discussed on birth blogs--and that is violence. The fact is, the number one cause of death among pregnant women has nothing to do with pregnancy. It's homicide. And more often than not, the slayer is her partner.

I was pregnant shortly after the Scott Peterson trial. There was also that guy in Utah who got some media attention for the same thing, but pled guilty and didn't put the world through a trial. In cased you missed it--both men killed their pregnant wives. Both had been model citizens--outwardly--and shocked their families and communities. I'm not sure why these particular cases got so much attention and others that happen don't, but according to a Maryland study in March 2001 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, murder was the leading cause of death in pregnant women. "Using death records and coroner reports, state health department researchers found 247 pregnancy-associated deaths between 1993 and 1998. Among those deaths, 50 were murders." The Maryland study reinforced two earlier studies that found the same results--the leading cause of death in pregnant women is murder.

Here's some information from an article that I cut and pasted from the National Organization for Women:

"People think that pregnancy is a joyful, happy time for families. That's not always true," said Phyllis Sharps, an associate professor at The Johns Hopkins University's school of nursing who researches violence against women.

In some cases, the woman has been abused for years, and the violence escalates to murder after she's pregnant. In others, pregnancy itself sparks emotions that can lead to murderous rages.

"Violence in intimate relationships is all about power," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "There are fewer times when you can have power over a woman than when she's pregnant. She's vulnerable. It's an easier time to threaten her."

"There are a lot of dynamics that go on in a relationship that involves violence—power and control and the need for the abuser to be primary," she said. "A pregnancy can create a sense of possibly losing that primary position."

The last statement rang very true in my case. The abuse was subtle and so confusing for years so that I couldn't see my way out. I thought batterers hit their wives weekly. He hit me only once--but the threat was always there. He once threatened to disfigure me on a Christmas vacation, and another time he beat up a chair in front of me. I can take inferences.

Most of the abuse was psychological. He'd isolate me by telling me people didn't like me. But in public he was charming and told everyone how wonderful he thought I was. At home, he'd do more gas lighting. I was always sucked back in by the honeymoon phase of the cycle and the promises that everything would change. I couldn't tell anyone what was really going on because I'd have to admit what an idiot I was. So most of the time I was in denial. I honestly believed that the honeymoon phase was the real marriage and everything else was just "out of character." Here's news for anyone else out there who believes this: everything a person does, even if it is only once, is in her/his character.

Well, then I got pregnant. Things were fine until I got sick and he wasn't the center of attention. Then the psychological abuse got so bad that I started to talk to people. And I realized something was wrong. I knew he had mental health issues, and so I blamed his OCD. I told him he had to get help or I'd be staying with a friend till he could get his head together. If I had known anything about the cycle of abuse and power struggle I might have expected his response.

He said, "I'd rather pay alimony." He filed for divorce the next day. Of course, the filing for divorce was an attempt to get me to panic and change back to that way I always was. To come back and to get rid of the pregnancy. He tried very hard to make me think I wanted an abortion--that it was my idea.

Of course, by then, I was thinking with two brains and I wasn't having it. Something about a growing baby in your womb changes everything. To cut this story short I put his stuff outside and changed the locks and that was it.

But I spent the rest of my pregnancy on high alert. I got a few dirty crank phone calls that were somewhat traumatizing, and my car was vandalized twice during that time. I had the police department down the street on speed dial and they regularly patrolled my house. Many times, I wondered if I was being paranoid, but when I look back I also wonder if my hyper-vigilance saved my life. Thankfully, his manic behavior settled down after a few years and I finally broke out of the cycle. (Divorce doesn't end the cycle.)

I feel sort of naked sharing all this here but I'm hoping that it helps someone. The thing I have learned about abuse is that is can happen to anyone. There is no special type of person that batterers target, and there is no stereotypical batterer.

In fact, police records show that violence, including homicidal violence, cuts across all races and classes.

"There is no profile of what these men look like," Sharps said. "Many are educated, upstanding citizens."

Upstanding citizens means that they could be priesthood holders and do their home teaching every month. Mine did. This was one of the problems--I thought no one would believe me if I told them. Thankfully he made that choice for me and soon everyone saw what I knew all along. But here's the deal--it doesn't matter how it looks to anyone else. Heavenly Father knows. And there is no way he wants one of his daughters (or sons) being treated this way. He will help you and guide you if you go to Him. How do I know? Because I have been there. (If you are not so hip on men right now, try to remember that we have two heavenly parents, and that they are united. While we address our prayers to Him, I imagine that if they are united, She hears everything, and is as much a loving mother as He is our loving father in heaven.)

If you or someone you know needs to get out of a physically or psychologically abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline ( at 1800-799-SAFE (7233). Also, I would advise counseling with your bishop. He has resources that can help you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Opposite of Anxiety

I once heard a hypnotherapy teacher say that the opposite of anxiety was options. It made sense at first--options are always good. It's very empowering to know and understand your options, especially as you go into your pregnancy and birth journey. However, recently I have been thinking a lot about this, and I think it is important to differentiate between having options, and keeping your options open. It is my belief, the once you've considered your options and made a choice, the opposite of anxiety is actually commitment. And it is commitment that allows us even more choices.

Here are some examples that may better illustrate my point:

  • Keeping your options open when it comes to romantic relationships prevents you from forming deep attachment, trust, and love. From a stable committed marriage you have the ability to grow and develop. In fact, digging deeper in the same spot is how we reach the rich, fertile soil of a relationship. When one tries to to dig in several places at the same time because they don't want to chose the wrong spot--this is more likely to create anxiety. In addition, when you are in a committed relationship you have the option of a regular ride to the airport and hospital--and a few other nice perks you can think of yourself.

  • When you commit to one faith and set of values that don't change, you have the option of peace and of expansion. Metaphorically, the deeper you dig with your faith, the more the hole can be filled with treasure--or "hidden treasures of knowledge," as they are sometimes called. (I might say more about this in a later blog post.)

  • When you commit to a career, you can advance in it to the highest level and skill. Whereas, if you are always changing directions, it is difficult to become the best at any one thing.
  • When you commit to bring your child into the world in a gentle, spiritual, dignified manner, then you have the option of being open to spiritual guidance. You also have the simplicity of having a measuring stick for all related choices. Questions such as, "Is it peaceful? Is it gentle? Is it necessary? Will it allow me to feel the connection to the divine? If not, what else might need to happen first, so that it can?"

I have been trying to find a way to articulate how commitment also produces miracles and divine assistance, but two days ago I found these perfect words from Goethe:

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now." -- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
This reminds me of Lani's birth story. When Lani felt inspired to have a home birth, she had some inner struggle at first about making a decision that was not popular. They also weren't sure how they were going to pay for it. However, when she and her husband made the decision and committed to it, the heavens opened up. Here are her words:

"I still struggled, at times, to remember the assurance that we had chosen the correct path. “Are we sure we’re doing the right thing?” I frequently asked Reid at bedtime. While the idea of home birth had been frightening to him in the past, he was now blessed to become my rock of strength—never doubting for a moment. He reassured me time and again when my faith wavered or when I expressed my real concerns that I wouldn’t know how to love our boy baby. In another priesthood blessing I had sought for reassurance, the Lord promised us that He would watch over all of us to ensure that we would be “well and safe” as I gave birth. And the Lord, my God, "did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith," just as He had told me He would, through the scriptures, at the beginning of my pregnancy.

The blessings and miracles continued to pour down upon us. In February, I attended a doula training workshop (offered for free as a gift to the community by the doula trainer) where I met many women who would become my friends. One of them, Cassie, offered to be my doula and take photographs of my birth (again, for free). She came over several times before the birth to meet Reid and my girls and to take maternity photos for us. Unexpected additional income came to us, with the probability of further additional income opportunities in the future. Just as the Lord had promised, we found ourselves with enough and to spare financially, and our baby’s birth was completely paid-for by my 36th week of pregnancy."
Lani's story is also a great example of how a loving committed partner can give us added strength and courage to keep digging.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We are Daughters: Preparing Young Women for Pregnancy and Childbirth

This truly inspired guest post is form Brittany from Birth Unplugged

Every Sunday, 12-18 year old girls all over the world stand and read aloud or recite a very beautiful and powerful document. It goes like this…

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places" (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:


Divine Nature

Individual Worth


Choice and Accountability

Good Works

Integrity and


We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

(the Young Women theme)

Learning to live the values in this theme is an important part of the Young Women program, and the Personal Progress program is designed to give young women opportunities to learn about and develop these values in their lives.

As stated in the theme, the purpose of living the Young Women values is to prepare young women for the future, including the responsibility to “strengthen home and family.” The phrase “strengthen home and family” was added when I was in the Young Women program. Part of strengthening home and family involves our participation in “the means by which mortal life is created,” (from The Family: A Proclamation to the World) the process of conception, pregnancy, and childbirth. It makes sense that living the Young Women values can be a preparation for the important experiences of being pregnant and giving birth.

I would like to explore how each of the values applies to the great work of childbearing which the Lord gives to His daughters. I will include with each value, the scripture and short explanation of the value from the 2009 edition of the Personal Progress manual.


Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true (Alma 32:21).

I am a daughter of Heavenly Father, who loves me. I have faith in His eternal plan, which centers on Jesus Christ, my Savior.

Faith is the first principle of the Gospel. We must have faith to believe that our Heavenly Father is real and He cares about our lives. If we have faith, we can ask the Lord for guidance in our lives and trust that the inspiration we receive is from Him, and then we must exercise faith to act upon it.

Often we hear natural birth advocates announcing that birth is safe, with cries of “Trust Birth!” while those in the medical field scoff and say that birth is relatively dangerous with the implication that women should trust doctors. As women of faith, we know in whom we must place our trust. With our faith in the Lord, we can be guided to make the decisions that are best for us and our children, individually.

Divine Nature

Be partakers of the divine nature. … Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (2 Peter 1:4–7).

I have inherited divine qualities, which I will strive to develop.

Divine Nature is the knowledge that we are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and that we are His children and have within us divine potential. The processes of pregnancy and birth were divinely designed and are the beautiful, sacred, godly purpose of our creation. “The woman, by her very nature, is also co-creator with God.” (Boyd K. Packer, “For Time and All Eternity,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 21)

As a woman who knows that the female body is divine and who understands that pregnancy and birth are part of its divine purposes, it is easy for me to believe that there can be harm in interfering with the natural birth process when it is going according to Heavenly Father’s design. This leads me to feel that something is not right with a system that relies heavily on medications and surgery to complete a natural process. I also believe that our Father in Heaven has provided us with safe, natural ways to relieve pain during birthing.

Individual Worth

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God (D&C 18:10).

I am of infinite worth with my own divine mission, which I will strive to fulfill.

Important to understanding Individual Worth is understanding how it differs from Divine Nature. I like to think of it this way. Divine Nature refers to knowing that God created His children to be like Him, while Individual Worth refers to knowing that he only created one of me. He wants us to know that He loves us each individually, with our own unique attributes and purposes. This is why Individual Worth is included separately from Divine Nature.

Knowing that our Father loves each of us helps us recognize that He cares about our experiences enough to guide us in them. No two birth stories are the same, and yet every baby born is as important to Him as Jesus Christ. I found I had difficulty enjoying my second pregnancy because the experience was not new, and therefore not as exciting as my first pregnancy—until I realized that my new baby was his own unique soul. This realization helped me significantly bond with my child, who I know the Lord loves and created to be an individual with infinite worth. As the Lord told His prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee.” (Jer. 1:5)


Seek learning, even by study and also by faith (D&C 88:118).

I will continually seek opportunities for learning and growth.

The Lord desires for his daughters to cultivate a spirit of learning in our lives. In a speech to BYU students entitled “The Journey of Lifelong Learning,” Elder Robert D. Hales specifically addressed opportunities for learning in motherhood,

“Motherhood is the ideal opportunity for lifelong learning. A mother’s learning grows as she nurtures the child in his or her development years. They are both learning and maturing together at a remarkable pace. It’s exponential, not linear. Just think of the learning process of a mother throughout the lifetime of her children. . . For example, in the process of rearing her children, a mother studies such topics as child development; nutrition; health care; physiology; psychology; nursing with medical research and care. . . The learning examples could continue endlessly. . . My point is, my dear sisters—as well as for the brethren, who I hope are listening carefully—a mother’s opportunity for lifelong learning and teaching is universal in nature.”

I believe that in something as important as the divinely created process of bringing His children into this world, the Lord is pleased when his daughters’ desire to learn more about it. We are acting on the value of knowledge when we learn about how pregnancy and birth typically unfold according to His plan, as well as the benefits and risks of various tests, procedures, and medications commonly used in pregnancy and birth.

Choice and Accountability

Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

I will choose good over evil and will accept responsibility for my decisions.

The basic principle of Choice and Accountability is that we have choices, and our choices have consequences. From the account of the war in heaven found in Moses 4:1-4, we know that it is part of God’s plan for us to have choices, and that Satan’s rebellion was based on the belief that he could accomplish universal salvation by taking away agency.

It is common in American maternity care for women to defer all decisions, and therefore all responsibility for the consequences, to their doctors. This is one reason so many doctors are sued. I believe that our Heavenly Father desires for us to make our own decisions, with his guidance. If we learn about all of our options and the possible consequences of various choices we may make, we are in a position where we can be accountable for our choices.

Good Works

Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (3 Nephi 12:16).

I will help others and build the kingdom through righteous service.

Good Works is the value of giving of one’s self for the benefit of others. In a 1942 issue of the Improvement Era, the first presidency referred to motherhood as “the highest, holiest service … assumed by mankind.” The sharing of the body’s resources with our babies during pregnancy and other hardships we may endure in order to give our children life constitute very important form of service. The value of the service we give in creating and sustaining new life with our bodies is not to be understated.


Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me (Job 27:5).

I will have the moral courage to make my actions consistent with my knowledge of right and wrong.

Integrity is having the courage to act on what you know is the truth. In pregnancy and birth, this applies to holding strong to what the Lord has guided you to do to best take care of yourself and your baby. Sometimes your choices may not be popular, but integrity means holding fast to your principles in the face of any opposition you may receive from anyone who may disagree with your choices, whether they are friends, family, or medical professionals.


Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies (Proverbs 31:10).

I will prepare to enter the temple and remain pure and worthy.

My thoughts and actions will be based on high moral standards.

The eighth value, virtue, was added in November 2008. Virtue encompasses chastity in thought and deed, as well as modesty in dress, speech, and action. A virtuous woman knows the true holy purposes of her body, and does not seek to misuse it for ungodly purposes. Striving to be virtuous before marriage will bless a women in her marriage as she uses her divine body for two of its most divine purposes, the binding together of husband and wife and the creation of physical bodies for children to join her family.

I believe it is important for our young women to understand that while being worthy to enter the Lord’s house is a very good reason to be pure, it is not the only reason. Virtue is not a means to an end of a temple marriage, but rather a lifestyle of respect for Heavenly Father’s plan and our place within that plan.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Sweetness I Never Expected

This birth story was submitted by Kelley Birrell:

Several months before I got pregnant with my last child, a little girl, my then 4-year-old son asked me where babies come from. I wasn't prepared with a pat answer, so I just shot from the hip and told it to him straight. I didn't explain the nitty-gritty details of how the babies got in there, but I did tell him how they start as special seeds from the daddy, grow inside the mommy's belly, and that they eventually come out through a special hole in her bottom. I also told him that he'd be welcome to be there at the birth of our next baby.

This really got him excited, and for the next several months I kept getting questions about when I was going to get another baby in my belly so he could watch it be born. Finally, the long-awaited day came and I announced to my husband and sons, through happy tears, that I was pregnant. My son immediately asked if he could still be there when the baby came. I told him "absolutely."

This pregnancy, with what turned out to be my first and only daughter, was not a pleasant one. I was miserably sick at the beginning (for the first time in 4 pregnancies!), and in excruciating pain at the end. I was planning a homebirth, but it took me several months to find a midwife who could practice in my state, and then I found that I really didn't like her style of care. I was worried that I'd have to have my baby in the hospital, and that it wouldn't work for my son to be there for the birth.

Around my 6th month, we moved to a different state and I quickly found another midwife. I adored this one from the moment I set eyes on her, and we bonded immediately. She helped me cope through the last 3 very difficult months of my pregnancy, for which I was deeply grateful.

The best thing about finding her is that I realized that my dreams of a homebirth were very likely going to come true. By this time, the invitation to my one son to be at the birth had grown to include all three of my sons (now aged 3 1/2, nearly 6, and 8). They were excited, but I don't think they really had any idea of what was going to happen.

As I neared the end of my pregnancy, I began to worry about how I was going to handle having three little, sometimes rambunctious boys around me while I was in labor. Previously I had had only adults around me, and my kids were not there. Also, I was getting some really strange looks when I'd tell friends that my sons were going to watch the birth. It was like everyone around me thought it was extremely inappropriate for my sons to see that. On top of all this, my mom kept telling me that I should have a back-up plan for the kids in case I had to go to the hospital suddenly. The problem was that I wasn't about to tell them they couldn't come when I'd been telling them they could for over a year. I decided to brush off everybody else's opinions, and just focus on what I knew was right - that my boys needed to be there.

Finally the day we'd all been waiting for came. I started having contractions at about 3:00 in the morning, but managed to sleep through them off and on. They weren't too terribly frequent or intense by morning when everyone got up, so I took the kids to a birthday party at a local park. Lots of people were there, and the kids played while I talked to several of the moms, stopping every five minutes or so to breathe through contractions that were starting to become more consuming. I was very glad when the party was over, and we could go home (I hated to make my boys leave before all their friends did).

Next came the part I had been mildly dreading - at home, taking care of my three kids by myself for a few hours while I was in labor. However, the afternoon went much better than I could have anticipated. My boys took great naps, and then played quietly (totally out of character for them, I should add) while I labored on a birth ball in our living room. My husband came home, and all 4 of them took very good care of me. My now nearly 6-year-old son brought me water, and my boys took turns with each other and my husband rubbing my back for me. They were gentle and kind, and I was truly surprised at how sweet the experience was turning out to be.

Fast forward a few hours... the time had come for the birth. My boys were starting to get very excited, and my midwife showed up at the house about the time my husband was planning to take them to a nearby restaurant with a playland so they could burn off some energy. We all thought there were still several more hours to go. My midwife and I got comfortable, I made myself a peanut butter smoothie, and we talked for a few minutes.

After I finished, we went into the bedroom so she could check me to get an idea of where things were. What happened next was a total surprise to both of us. My cervix was positioned far enough back that she could barely reach it, however, she managed to ascertain that I was about 4 centimeters and VERY stretchy. As an experiment, she lightly tugged on the edge during a contraction (they ARE inevitable when you're getting checked) to see what would happen. What happened is that I immediately opened up to about a 10 and my baby's head came down right to her hand!

She jumped up, and started getting things ready for the birth VERY quickly! I had her call my husband and tell him to get home IMMEDIATELY while I knelt on my hands and knees and vocalized through a few more contractions. By the time they all arrived a couple minutes later, I was positioned on a birth ball at the side of my bed, and pushing with all my might. My husband and our sons stood at the door of our room getting a full view of the action, but I didn't mind a bit. At one point, I remember my youngest son (the 3 1/2-year-old) telling his brother that the baby was going to come out Mommy's special hole in her bottom. Even though I was working hard, I just had to smile at that dear little voice saying such an innocent and funny thing. A few minutes later, my beautiful daughter was born, and my husband (of course) and boys saw every bit of it.

Looking back on the experience, I will be eternally grateful that I trusted myself and my boys enough to have them at the birth. My almost 6-year-old said some every special things about the birth later, even though he did admit thinking it was just a little gross (boys WILL be boys!). All of them adore their sister, and did immediately. It was like she was every bit as much their baby as she was my baby. I was pleasantly surprised at how delightful and sweet it was having my children there, and being able to hear their thoughtful comments and charming voices in the background. It is an experience I will always cherish, a moment when we truly became a family all together at last.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Women Give Birth, Pizzas are Delivered

La bella luz, originally uploaded by Danielle Lupin.

When Busca, Heather, and I met with Lynn Callister in July we had a discussion about birth language. Lynn is on the review board of several nursing journals and said that she is known for getting after writers about birth language. "Women give birth, pizzas are delivered" has become almost a mantra for her.

Of course, birth language is one of the first things hypnosis for childbirth methods change. Like the word, contraction--in reality, the body is not contracting but opening and massaging your baby down. It is amazing what just changing language can do for a mom. The new language bypasses the critical filter of the mind and the limited beliefs/knowns about birth and allows for a whole new range of experience.

In my study of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, I am learning about all the ways that language can reveal a person's internal structure of the world, and how, just by changing language, we can expand that structure.

One of the big problems with medical language is all the nominalizations. Linguistically, nominalization is the changing of a verb which is active in time into a noun which is static and unchanging. Words like friendship or strategy or relationship. The problem with these words is that they imply no active participation by other elements. If I ask you, "How is your relationship?" you are able to answer without accountability: "the relationship is suffering." However, change the word back into the verb form--"How are you relating?"--and see how your answer changes.

Abstract nouns cause distortion and make it seem like we have few choices. I read an interesting article by Dr. Wallace Ellerbroek, titled, "Language, Emotion and Disease" in which Dr. Ellerbroek who is both a surgeon and a psychiatrist, attempted to denominalize his own medical terminology. He states:

"I called all diseases "behaviors," in other words, things that people do...When i found a patient with elevated blood pressure...I said to myself not "He has hypertension" but "He is hypertensioning."

He found that transforming this abstract noun that represented a set of medical conditions back into a process, altered his behavior toward his patients and also changed his patients' responses to treatment in a dramatic and positive way.

So how do we help ourselves, and possibly our care providers, learn to use different language? The answer is first to identify these abstract nouns. I like the wheelbarrow test: Can I put it in a wheelbarrow? I can put my cervix in a wheelbarrow, but I can't put incompetence into it--or pain. If you can't put it into a wheelbarrow, it's probably a nominalization. You can begin to denominalize our own speech and that of our care providers just by asking questions. Who , what, when, where, why, and how, until you reconnect the abstract back into a process.

What does this have to do with spirituality and birth?

In English, the language of birth has been largely rid of spiritual underpinnings. I believe that when you change language, you can change the way people think about things, and therefore, how they will behave. If you don't believe me you can read dozens of studies on this. I read a really interesting one which I can't find now about Native Americans who don't have a word for certain colors and so they don't see that range of colors as different from those similar. On the other hand, Eskimos have 70 words for different types of snow, which allow them to perceive an amazingly wide rage of different characteristics of snow that the rest of us could not notice. In the first example, language inhibited experience, and in the second it enhanced it.

It is my desire, and I would love to invite everyone to add the divine back into birth language. It is my belief that in so doing, we will not only enhance our experiences and our options, but also bridge some of the gap between opposing birth camps, and dramatically change the process of birth.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mind Flex and Labor

The other day I had a chance to play with this gadget/toy called Mindflex. Mattel put it out last year, and it's pretty cool, however, this is not a product review. I'll be getting to my point in a moment. First, I have to explain how the game works. As you can see in the photo below, there is a headset that you put on which is a very simple EEG machine. It measures your brain activity through a sensor over your left eye.

Your brain activity is used to power a fan which lifts a light-weight ball into the air. The speed of the fan, and thus the height of the ball, depends upon your concentration. Once you figure this out, there is a knob you can turn to move the ball around a track and put it through hoops and other obstacles. It was really fun and interesting to see what kind of brain activity raised the ball. Besides ball height, there is also a meter on the left side of the contraptions that measures brain activity and lights up to 5 or 6 lights depending on your concentration.

I played around with MindFlex for only about half an hour, but I was able to achieve quite a lot of success in that time and also learn some things.

The manual gave suggestions for increasing concentration and lowering it, but said that each person was different. So I tried all kinds of different things. I tried thinking different thoughts to see how they measured differently on brain activity. I.e. happy v. sad, math problems v. singing a song in my head. It was very interesting, and I would like more time to experiment with this. The biggest thing I noticed was that when I went inward and tried to remember a kinesthetic experience, such as what it feels like to swim in cool water or even the sweaty, adrenaline rush of playing soccer--the ball lowered every time. However, when I started to talk to myself about what all this meant and what I should think or do next, the ball levitated to its highest point.

This surprised me at first, but it makes absolute sense. When I was thinking about kinesthetic stuff, or rather, imagining using one or more of my senses, I wasn't thinking per se, I was in my body. It very quickly changed my state and my mental activity. We know that brain waves change in hypnosis, but putting hypnosis aside, (because it can be a strong word for some people), any time you access your senses, you change state.

This made me wonder if there are any studies on brain activity during labor. I always say that we birth from a very primal place, mentally--and I would love to see a study on how brain activity differs for natural, undisturbed birth versus more interventive birth where women are forced back and forth into their conscious mind. And which states have better outcomes. Although I already can intuit the answers to this, it would be cool to see a study.

I know I said this wasn't a product review, but it was so fun to play with this game, I would highly recommend it. It's great for kids, too. In fact, I think that's the market for which it was originally intended.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hey Dads

Homebirth, originally uploaded by Glass and Plastic.

Hey dads, we are looking for your stories, too. We'd love to hear how you experienced the spiritual nature of pregnancy and birth, how you supported your wife during labor, how you kept your marriage strong, or any insights you want to share with us. We'd especially love to hear from dads who made major transformations--such as becoming supportive of things you once feared, changes in your life inspired by your pregnancy, etc.

Please email them to ldsbirthstories at gmail as a word document with your contact info.


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