Several years ago in Charlotte, I met up with a young woman named Allison. She had recently moved from Ohio. We met at the Chik Fil A in Ballantyne area and while her young son played, she shared where she thought she had went wrong with her first birth experience. Summed up like so, "We were uneducated and my OBGYN insisted upon a c-section at 39 weeks- big baby was given as the reason based on an ultrasound." She was eager for information and seemed to soak up every word. I shared some basic education with her that day: a proven nutritional & exercise training plan is the key to staying healthy & low risk, which increases your options in birthing and keeps you on track to reach your birth goals. Where and with whom you give birth matters. You need quality childbirth education to even know what choices are available during labor and birth, as well as, the "what if's"... okay what if its a big baby? Informed consent is another big part of quality education. If you do not know how to properly communicate with your medical team to retain their support, it typically only leads to more confusion and potential problems for the couple. For some reason, to this day, I speak with new couples in a variety of states who have NO IDEA they can make decisions best for them and their baby. Many uneducated couples are led to believe they simply must do what the doctor or nurse tells them and never even ask the informed consent questions: Is mom ok? Is baby ok? What is the actual problem? What is your proposed treatment? And, my personal favorite, If mom and baby are okay, WHAT ARE OUR OTHER OPTIONS? Newsflash... there are always other options but if you don't ask you will never know. In their defense, it is not their job to educate you, their job is practicing medicine. Like all the rest of us who do our job a certain way, they prefer to do their labor & birth work a certain way. Education and an understanding of how the body works, ways to reduce pain and discomfort and proven nutritional, exercise and relaxation practice is especially important for those seeking VBAC/ trying to avoid surgery, avoid induction or pain management in general.
To better understand how Allison, came to completely different conclusions than her first doctor in regard to the best way to birth her children and ultimately achieve her target birth experience, allow me to share from her words!
The Top Five pros and cons from each birth:
With baby #1, Allison scheduled surgery, as her doctor desired, after a threat of big baby estimating 99th percentile was made, during late pregnancy ultrasound on May 23, 2013
Pros: an uneventful flawless surgery free of surgical complications. She shared it was nice knowing when he would come out, she didn't endure contractions and dad was able to be present with her. Knowing what she knows now, she shared, more than likely because they were uneducated, most likely would've had the same outcome in the form of a failure to progress c-section at a later time because she did not have a support system.
Cons: Surgical recovery process, struggled with postpartum depression (partly bc I felt robbed of the birth experience I had always envisioned, issues with breastfeeding, baby had to be in NICU one reason was fluid in the lungs which is a known complication from a c-section and a general feeling of inadequacy that her body had failed her.
With baby #2, Allison & Ben completed twelve weeks of natural birth prep in The Bradley Method®. She learned not only all the things that were in her control that could change her outcome, but also learned some tricks of the trade to better manage her contractions and how to maintain sufficient nutrition for a healthier mom, healthier baby, stronger uterus, sufficient placenta, etc. With the addition of a Doula, the choice of supportive midwives in a VBAC supportive birth place, she had significantly increased her chances of a vaginal birth.
Pros: Well educated & trained, had an exceptional supportive husband coach, chose a supportive staff with an on call OBGYN, in case of medical emergency. Freedom to labor and successful Vaginal Birth After Caesarean with help from staff of Natural Beginnings at Davis Memorial hospital.
Cons: extremely long labor 71 hours, nurse that mistakingly shared I was 7 cm and I was only 4cm, use of late labor epidural, an episiotomy and use of vacuum extraction.
With baby #3,
Pros: Drug free Natural Birth, natural tear (instead of episiotomy), much shorter 20 hour labor, incredibly supportive husband coach, birth team and birth photographer (which I definitely wish I had done with my other two births), even more prepared for this birth because of my experience as a Doula Apprentice.
Cons: Week of prodromal labor, hospital birth vs birth center ( was required per a new policy set by NC medical board), push phase was still the hardest thing I have ever done, vacuum extraction was still utilized and felt out of control even with all my preparation (this is why a good coach and support system is so important to have).
Me: What you feel in your words was the most beneficial prep during your Bradley Method 12 weeks Training i. e. Nutritional plan, exercise prep, relaxation practice, labor role play etc. ?
Allison: a combination of it all - I would not have been successful without following a strict diet (to limit baby weight since we make big babies), knowing what to expect as far as different scenarios that could happen in labor and playing that out in role plays, exercises, and relaxation practices.
Me: What you feel helped you the most? Include positions or tub, ball, etc. or certain relaxation techniques, such as 8th grade dance, counter pressure, music, low verbal noises, etc.
Allison: because of the position in my womb my daughter was in, standing was the best position for me. Other positions just hurt, a lot. Even the tub was not pleasant. Knowing and understanding that there are plenty of labor position so helped me (and my husband) find the best position for me. If I had been in a hospital or birth place that was not as open to allowing a woman to labor as she chooses, I know I would have opted for an epidural (and thus leading down a slippery slope to more unnecessary interventions). I couldn’t have labored without my husband, he was the best coach, allowing me to use him and lean on him as I needed and constantly reminding me everything I should be doing. Low verbal noises and affirmation notecards also worked. It’s really important to understand yourself and how you handle pain to figure out what will work in labor. I knew for me, lots of praises and touches would not be the best for me and my support team knew that.
Me: What was your Biggest challenge during Birth marathon #3?
Allison: the push phase, hands down.
My daughter was stuck under my pubic bone because of her massive head and after a while of trying to push on my own (on my back because I still had a lip of cervix and as I mentioned before being upright is all that felt tolerable so being on my back was excruciating) i consented to the use a vacuum to help my daughter not slide back up after a contraction. After 2 contractions with the vacuum, she was born! Because of my 2nd birth (also a vacuum birth but this one for 3 hours of pushing with a vacuum), we knew it was possible that I would need assistance again. And being ok with that was key to a natural birth for me.
Me: Best Advice for moms who experience labor challenges who want to labor drug free?
Allison: I’ve learned it’s a mental game. All a mental game. If you stay on top of the feelings of not being able to do it, or endure everything labor will throw your way, you’ll have a successful natural birth. If you surround yourself with supportive people who will continually remind you of the end goal, you will be successful. When you want to give up the most, that’s when you’re the closest to meeting your baby. Because even the most prepared, educated mamas can reach a point of giving up (I did!), preparing throughout pregnancy as previously discussed will be imperative for a successful natural birth.
Me: Why did you decide to become a Doula Apprentice with YourBirthHelper.com and how do you feel your training & assisting other couples experience natural birth thus far helped pre you for your own natural birth?
Allison: because of my first birth experience and it not being the optimal one I had envisioned thus leading to one of the reasons I had postpartum depression, I am passionate about educating other women before they have to experience what I did. I want to help women through pregnancy and the labor and birth process, helping them achieve their desired goals. And on the flip side, helping women achieve their goal of natural childbirth helped me achieve my goal of a natural childbirth with my third child. Another baby with a massive head came vaginally and naturally! All of my babies have had head above the 99th percentile and two came vaginally, thus proving my original doctor wrong. Watching and helping women have a natural childbirth has helped the mental game of “I can do this, I can’t do this” so much - yes I can! Yes you can!
Allison represents a prime example of two major benefits of YourBirthHelper.com,
she has stayed plugged into her #BirthFamily which allows her not only to be empowered by the stories of others but to give back sharing her experiences and has become a solid source of encouragement for so many expectant moms. In addition she has made some valuable lasting friendships and her kids have, as well. Also, her last two births represent our goal for our clients, #SymbioticBirth, a perfect blend of normality plus only medically necessary interventions.
Together, working for the good of the family, respecting the couple's wishes for their target birth experience, supporting them through it and helping navigate through labor/ birth hurdles is so very important. Regardless of how a baby exits mom's body, regardless of the use of pain management or not, regardless of where she births in or out of hospital, midwife or doctor, there are choices, lots of options. The difference is whether a couple knows the basics of how the body works, how to work with their body, how to acquire the options of birthing, choosing the best location and practice in which to do business and prepare accordingly because Birth much like your wedding day is a one day event- there are NO re do's... there is much to learn in nine short months and when we can successfully apply what we have learned, we might just find, The 3rd times the CHARM!
The 2017 North Carolina Birth Story of the Year goes to Ben & Allison Termeer. Congrats to this power couple on a job well done. Something tells me Ms. Violet Mae will be one smart little girl and not just because her head size is in the 99th percentile, but because she has two excellent parents who will devote a lifetime of love, energy and devotion into raising her. Lastly, nothing would warm my heart more than to see you meet your latest goal of becoming a Labor & Delivery Nurse. You WILL no doubt be a blessing to all who have the pleasure of you assisting them in their very own happy "birth" day! Together, we can make a difference and bless others! Thanks again Allison for your dedication over the years to YourBirthHelper and the entire #BirthFamily!
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