There is a great misconception in labor. It is when women have a tendency to think that just because they have endured one labor & birth, any additional labor/ births should be easier, right? Sadly, this is not the norm. In fact, many women tend to find the opposite. Dr. Bradley was quick to educate women on such a myth. He was adamant couples should prepare for each baby as they did the first, because all babies are different and therefore all individual labors are different. It is also why The Bradley Method® does not offer review or refresher classes. Affiliated instructors are Not allowed to teach fewer than twelve classes, because Dr. Bradley proved twelve weeks of prep for each pregnancy meant 94% of his clients were successful in a drug free, low intervention birth when properly prepared. Each pregnancy presents its own challenges and where most struggle is in the area of splitting their time to properly prepare for and during subsequent pregnancies. You see, its very hard to ask your toddler to sit quietly while you do your exercises, plan & prepare a well balanced healthy meal daily, yet alone, practice relaxation for the second one. In fact, its quite the opposite, especially for moms working outside the home.
The struggle is real... we are real busy people and unless we set aside time to make those things happen with each baby, unfortunately we do not go into the other labors & births feeling as prepared both mentally & physically. But, what about emotional relaxation? Many fail to realize it is a big factor of making or breaking your #SymbioticBirth experience. We already have this thing called not so happy HORMONES combined with our quickly fatigued bodies tired from just carrying a baby working against us.
Now, for a basic concept taught years ago by Dr. Robert A. Bradley of The Bradley Method® of natural childbirth aka as Husband Coached Childbirth. The word "Husband" today some have taken to be derogatory- that should not be the case. Don't cheat yourself out if good quality education simply to be political correct by today's standards. Simply, acknowledge the labor coach (which formerly was most often the husband or father of the baby) today could be a friend for a single mom, wife to a same sex couple, life partner, etc. The coach is someone in which mom shall rely on to best support her wishes and be an advocate for her during hardest phases of labor when she is no longer thinking clearly. As Garrett was for Erica. And, girls if you think you will not experience "foggy brain-out of mind- lack of thinking clearly-self doubt during labor"... well, better think again, most do. This is most often the time when mom instead of surrendering to her labor, surrenders her birth plans to countless medical interventions. Did you know statistically only a third of women endure a very difficult transition? Be encouraged a third of women have a mild transition in which they never ask for medication nor desire it and a third of women do not have transition at all- THANK GOODNESS!! The use of a DOULA most often serves Mom and the couple as a whole, in addition to, her Coach during difficult phases of labor, helping keeping mom in a relaxed state, helping navigate through labor trials thus increasing your odds of low intervention drug free birth, should that be your goal. Doula's can also support the couple through necessary medical interventions such as epidural administration, prior or after surgery, etc. Each labor brings about a various role of assistance. Dr. Bradley also explained a very important aspect of successful productive labor:
RELAXATION = PROGRESS ~ Don't be fooled into thinking your only the task is relaxing physically.
Let's break this down:
Physical Relaxation has to do with how successful MOM is in turning off ALL muscle groups NOT involved in holding us into position. This simple concept removes additional tension from the body and allows the uterus to work unhindered. By removing additional tension, we also only endure the pain associated with the contraction, not additional pain we create ourselves.
Mental Relaxation has to do with what we are thinking about in labor. Make no mistake not being able to tame the mind and focus on your happy thoughts can clearly make or break someone's low intervention or drug free birth experience. We must be able to set the mind free to achieve proper levels of relaxation & even healthy blood pressures for that matter. Ever gotten upset by thinking about something that happened to you or the words someone spoke that planted seeds of doubt or hurt feelings... it affects our entire being. It matters whether those in the room support mom and encourage her to focus on happy healthy thoughts.
Emotional Relaxation has to do with what we feel about what is happening to us, our body & our baby. These feelings can directly affect moms level of comfort, confidence & ultimately her progress.
I have personally witnessed moms who were doing an amazing job through their contractions become instantly upset & ultimately defeated by a simple text message from a non-supportive family member, words spoken from a doctor or nurse such as "big baby", "induction", "c-section", a gesture such as "bringing the epidural kit into the room of a mom desiring natural birth" or my personal favorite, pointless effects of the internal exam... mom does NOT need to hear a number! Unless its a 9-10 with the go ahead to push, numbers are defeating. Often, a number we don't want to hear can lead us to believe, (as a laboring woman), WE CAN'T Do This.
For Erica, a trained massage therapist, aka relaxation expert herself, breathing & relaxing through a contraction was not an issue. She rocked that aspect of labor (which most would consider the hardest part- the contraction right?) but with anything, Practice makes perfect! However, many things were rolling around in Erica's head preventing her from TOTAL RELAXATION... mentally her mind was thinking: What if I have to push for over 7 hrs again what happens to my Hernia? Will I do even more damage to my body? What is the baby is too big, I'll end up with a c-section anyway? She continued to roll all this around in her brain despite her relaxed legs, arms, gluts & kegel... everything looked relaxed from the outside, in fact, the opposite was transpiring in her mind. She began to question her ability to birth vaginally, let alone drug free even though the first time she accomplished drug free natural birth overcoming a long labor & difficult very lengthy push phase. But, this time, her mind refused to allow her the peace to just be present, to stop trying to work, to just be mom today not therapist trying to fix muscles, stretch a ligament, examine her own body & just allow the uterus to work and surrender to her labor. As a doula team, our role is to help the couple navigate through the hurdles, obstacles or what I like to call, the one tree in front of us. For example, if we spike a fever - we take a tylenol. If mom has signs of dehydration- we utilize an IV & fluid. If mom is no longer having a strong enough or close enough contraction to get a baby out - we must be proactive to face these trials head on. If we allow the mother to just keep burning up energy despite a functional contraction, we are simply just spinning our tires in the mud and allowing mom to deplete the energy we certainly need to birth. In the second labor of Erica & Garrett, sadly we were faced with this reality and despite her level of relaxation physically, she was exhausted, her energy rapidly being depleted. We needed a strong enough contraction to finish the job.
Previously, we had tried natural means to increase contractions including: walking, pressure points, nipple stimulation & clary sage essential oil. Once again, we were facing the challenge again to bring about a strong enough contraction to expel a baby. We re-examined viable options, we could walk around to pick up the contractions, but she was too tired to do anymore physical activity - that was not an option at this point. We examined whether there could be a possible forebag of waters holding up baby & cervix from completing the job - we were told no bag was present so we moved on to the next option: pitocin (which Erica was not studying at all). She wanted to wait it out- then she began to ask for a c-section (which floored us all)... we thought hmmm maybe she could be in transition (the phase when most start asking for drugs or removal of baby)? The midwife Barbara was as concerned as all of us: we all exited the room to strategize... Barbara, Garrett, Nancy & myself.... what other options do we have, is it possible the baby truly is too large to pass as she was led to believe via ultrasound? Now, how can we together as a team work together toward helping Erica achieve a #SymbioticBirth? How can we bring the best of the natural process and compliment her hurdles with the best medical options to keep her OFF the Operating Table? Erica had convinced herself she needed a c-section that not only was the baby most likely too big to be born vaginally it would cause even further damage to her hernia. We were all shocked that Erica had jumped WAY ahead and decided not only would she prefer surgery over pushing that she also would NOT allow a needle in her back so she wanted general anesthesia (in which Garrett would not be allowed to be present). I said Erica now I know you do not want to cheat your husband out of seeing his own baby born... you are skipping way too far into the forrest. I need you to come back to the one tree in front of you. Nancy was able to talk her into an IV being administered and they began some fluid. I call it your meal in a bag...
Meanwhile, we all stepped into the hall together. Barbara being an awesome encouraging midwife (@ Novant Presby Huntersville, NC) declares, "She does NOT need a c-section, I believe her body CAN birth this baby and I do not believe our body grows a baby we can't pass but I know she is so tired. Of course, we all agreed Erica's issue was probably right between her ears not necessarily her uterus itself. It was proposed possible use of Nubain to allow some sleep, but I like to keep it real. Couples should be aware this is not always the case. Not what we define as sleep. Most often, if we are lucky, we get 20-40 minutes of rest, not exactly what we would call sleep. She did not feel she could weather the pitocin and was scared to utilize the epidural for sleep in cooperation with the epidural which some choose. She & her husband understood the possible risks plus benefits to all the above but the thought of a needle in her back was not an option. As a massage therapist myself, many of our clients have endured injection site pain for years after epidural and even permanent back damage. Maybe, even worse enduring an epidural that does not work effectively or at all. But, lets keep this real, an EPIDURAL IS STILL WAY LESS INVASIVE THAN SURGERY. SHE JUST KEPT COMING BACK TO C-SECTION TALK.
I told Garrett, we would go across the street to McDonald's grab coffee & biscuit and allow them to think over & weigh their options on how to move forward. They decided she would have the epidural for two fold purpose sleep & prep for surgery so Garrett could be in the room and present for birth. Before we could even get coffee across the street, Garrett text that she did NOT go through with the epidural after all. That the doctor had scared her with consent verbiage / tone of voice that in the end, did a huge favor in speaking like that to her. It immediately re-focused her!
She didn't get much rest maybe 20 minutes of a break but she did overcome the necessity of pitocin, by trusting us to consider another internal exam, to check for a forebag of water holding up baby's head & indeed the fluid had pooled up in front hindering the head from decending. Once Erica agreed to amniotomy, the head came down, the contractions picked back up, we pushed a very short time in hands & knees over the bed to reduce pressure to her hernia and she achieved her #SymbioticBirth free of needles. I just had to help her keep her elbows up & out because everything in her wanted to bear down and lower and well, there was a baby coming out :)
As shared by Erica:
Epidural experience was part of labor that challenged me to take how I was feeling physically and put that aside for what I had set in my mind & heart mentally for labor. This part of labor was one of my weakest moments where I was faced with the reality of what was about to happen so I began to pray for an answer.
I have had a fear of needles as long as I can remember.. so the idea of me even considering to get an epidural proved I’d hit my weakest moment. When the doctor came in to prep me for it, I started to become more aware of the reality of what was about to happen. Knowing me. my body. My fear of needles. I became very inquisitive with the doctor. I at one point remember asking her what happens if I jump when you stick me with the needle? She said, “ if you move, I will hurt you” I appreciated the honestly and honestly thankful she had been so direct, because just then I knew I did not want to follow through with the procedure. My prayers had been answered. When the doctor asked me the final time.. “do you allow me to give you this epidural?” (by law they have to ask before following through) I looked into my husbands eyes and said,”I can’t do this.. it goes against everything my body- mind-heart is telling me.” The other challenge was the idea stuck in my head that Luke was too big, I could physically feel that he wasn’t able to engage his head. After the plateau of contractions getting further apart, I started to become more physically/mentally defeated. When I considered having the c section, I felt like I’d hit rock bottom, maxed out, didn’t want to keep going through labor. I was so tired and felt weak and even if I got to transition I wouldn’t have enough energy to push. Two things I remember that helped the mind set, was my husband pulling aside the new midwife coming on and telling her that when they checked me next to reassure me that baby felt normal size and wasn’t too big. He also pulled out a picture of my first son, Cole and said do it for Luke
it was then with the help of course of my amazing dream Team encouraging an additional internal exam, that we found out there was in fact a bag of waters in-front of his head and once they broke that.. Game On! Baby boy Luke Jacob was born the way we hoped and prayed for!
Trained in The Bradley Method® as husband Coach, Garrett Marek, shares
his most Challenging Part/tips for Coaches:
Prior to the idea of an epidural being used……seeing my wife begin to give up emotionally due to physical exhaustion was hard. We didn’t come into this pregnancy as rested as the first due to already having a 2 year old….At one point she told me she couldn’t push anymore, she was done physically and mentally. I have never seen my wife give up before, look defeated etc…. this was difficult to see. We had a conversation and as much I didn’t want it, mentally she said she needed to go the route of c-section. Luckily, when it came time to have a needle inserted into her spine she couldn’t do it. As the doctor was asking for her permission, I wanted to cry, puke and punch a wall b/c this is not what we wanted for us or our child, but this is what was required. Thank God my wife decided to give it another shot (no pun intended).
Tips for dads 1) Study all of the materials and know the stages like the back of your hand, be very familiar with the app that times contractions, have your travel list ready so you can pack in a hurry/under stress, have your own ice chips made from apple juice, have some relaxing music and candles ready so you can make the hospital a relaxing setting.
2) Force yourself and your wife to rest as much as possible beginning 2 weeks prior to the “Due Date” so you can rest up. 3) Do a trial run of getting the car ready to see how things go and do a trial run how long it takes to get the hospital. 4) Realize many emotions will come up, your job is to be the calm one, focus/center her and be a rock. 5) One thing that helped me get her to really focus when she didn’t want to push anymore was to show her a picture of our 2 year old son Cole and said “bring Luke home”.
Someone must have known in advance the FORCE would be super strong for this one... from the likes of these "birth"day celebration shirts, "LUKE, I AM YOUR FATHER & LUKE, I AM YOUR GRANDFATHER"... I am most positive from the challenges Erica & Garrett overcame during this labor/birth, they would certainly agree! The #YourBirthHelper #CharlotteDoulaDreamTeam could not be more proud! Congratulations and welcome to the world this 8lbs. 1 oz Storm Pooper, otherwise known as, Luke Jacob Marek! Special thanks to Barbara CNM
& the amazing nurses of #NovantHuntersville