Originally Posted 3/31/15
Before we dive in, I want to lay this out there. I'm not writing this to say one kind of birth is better than another kind of birth. Yes, I'm a natural child birth educator and I also doula for many women who want a natural birth. But, this blog isn't about natural birth. My goal is for women to be encouraged to find the information and resources needed to have THEIR better birth.
A better birth is one where the mom and her partner come out feeling like they had a positive experience. So many births can be made better by choosing a provider and birth location that will support you in your decisions and have the determination to do everything possible to help you have a safe and satisfying birth. This is called Mother Friendly Care, and all birthing women deserve it.
^That's me. The first picture was taken during the induction of my 3rd child. I was nauseous and feeling miserable - we were on the 5th or 6th poke trying to get my IV started. I didn't want an IV, but it was part of the induction process. The nurses were so kind, but they couldn't get the IV started and I ended up having a blown vein in that arm. The anesthesiologist finally came and got the IV started in my other arm. I couldn't have the blood pressure cuff on either of my arms, because the IV ordeal had made it much too painful. We eventually put the BP cuff on my leg.
I had planned on delivering my baby unmedicated, but coping with labor while being stuck in a bed with straps around my belly and being hooked up to equipment by the arms, belly and leg, and having a tube and cable coming out of my lady parts... well, I just couldn't do it. I asked - NO - I begged for an epidural. The delivery is still a blur of miserable memories.
After that experience, I decided I'd get a doula and wait for labor to start on its own with #4. Things went MUCH better, but I still ended up getting poked a bazillion times and having an anesthesiologist come do my IV (which was originally supposed to be a saline lock). I hadn't had this issue with my first two children, but going through it with the 3rd AND 4th made me realize I had to do something drastically different for a better birth. I had a natural birth and it was better. But for me, and what I wanted out of my birth, I knew it could be improved upon.
Baby #5 was eventually born at home. The picture on the right is of me laboring comfortably in my tub during transition. She was actually born less than 30 minutes later. No IVs. No tubes. No cords. No machines. No needles. And did I mention she was breech? She came out easily. My memories of her birth are so joyous. It was a positive experience where I felt safe and supported. It was my better birth. Finally.
I realize not all women are going to want to birth at home. It is not the "better" birth for everyone. But there is a better birth out there - yes, for everyone.
Here is a mom who had her better birth at the hospital. Her first meeting with her new baby was quite different. She was immediately placed on mom's chest for skin to skin and bonding. This mom also had two doulas with her. She says it was a better birth for her.
Here's another mom who gave birth in a hospital. Notice in the picture on the left she's on her back. She has support people there, but no doula. You can tell her support people love her, but don't really know there are things they can actively do to help mom. The picture on the right shows her laboring upright with both her doula and her husband. She says this was a better, more supported birth for her.
Here is another mom who had doula support with a subsequent birth. Feeling supported and having someone encourage optimal labor positions can be a real game changer for a mom's birth experience.
Women giving birth by cesarean also deserve better birth experiences. The mom above didn't meet her baby until quite a while after surgery. She got to meet her next baby immediately after birth and was allowed to have the skin to skin time right there in the operating room. This is called a Family Centered Cesarean. She says it was a much better experience. A cesarean birth IS a birth. Why not make it a little bit less like surgery? When possible, accommodations should be made so that they can experience those first special moments, even if the birth happens to take place in an OR.
What if the mom's idea of a better birth is giving birth vaginally after a cesarean (VBAC)? Boy, in those cases it matters even more about your care provider. You'd be surprised how many providers say they're VBAC friendly, but when it comes down it, they're scheduling your repeat c-section before you've even reached your due date. If your idea of a better birth is having a VBAC, I strongly urge you to carefully research your options for care provider and birth location. Take a birth class! Hire a doula! That's the kind of team it will take. The mom above, Caryn Westdyk, enjoyed her better birth so much that she became a Birth Boot Camp instructor.
Sometimes VBAC moms decide to look at options outside of the hospital in order to have their better birth. Melissa Kosloski, above, is a Birth Boot Camp instructor who achieved a VBAC with a supportive care provider, a midwife, right in the comfort of her own home.
This mom decided her better birth would take place at a birth center. After having a cesarean because of "failure to progress", she had a successful VBAC where she was able to labor and birth in positions that actually helped labor progress!
Here is a mom who changed things up to make things better with each subsequent birth. Her first was an unplanned cesarean. The birth of baby #2 was an attempted VBAC that ended with a family centered CBAC (cesarean birth after cesarean). Even though her VBAC plans changed with her circumstances, she was still able to have a better birth experience than she'd had with her first birth. After that, she went on to have a VBA2C with her 3rd baby.
The initiation of breastfeeding is often forgotten as being part of the birth experience.But, it can really set the stage for how and if the breastfeeding relationship will continue. Even something as trivial as monitor placement can impact that first meeting of mom and baby. Why not make things easier for them?
How women are treated and supported at the time of birth can make a huge impact on how they will recover, both physically AND emotionally after a birth. If a mom feels strong armed into a cesarean because her care provider does not respect her decisions, she is far more likely to carry this with her for a very long time - even for life. If a mom's decisions are supported, even if her plans don't quite turn out the way she'd hoped, being supported can make recovery so much better. It can be happy. Maybe even a little bit silly like my good friend above!
As much as we wish it were possible, we just can't control all of the circumstances surrounding birth. For example, a mom with a history of preterm labor may not be able to avoid an early birth and a NICU stay. However, how she is treated in those first hours, days and weeks matters. This is going to look different from one situation to the next. But, the take away should be that there is always something we can do to make a mother's experience better - whether it's how the first meeting is facilitated or how the mom is loved on and cared for after the birth. There is always a better, more loving way.
Let's not leave out the experiences of birth partners. They may not be the ones giving birth, but there is no one else in the world who cares more deeply about mom and baby. And the experience belongs to them, too.
There are so many choices in birth. It's important to know them, because if you don't know what they are, then you don't have any choices at all. I urge every woman to ask their care providers the tough questions. Demand evidence based and gentle care. Invest in your births. Do these things so that you, too, can have your better birth - whatever that looks like for you <3
What was/is your ideal better birth experience? What did/will you do to try to set yourself up for a positive experience? Leave your thoughts in the comments!