Friday, January 9, 2009

My Birth Hero

Laura Shanley!

Around 8.5 years ago when I was pregnant with Jason (baby#3) I was told by my best friend how interventions at the hospital cause many of the problems we see in childbirth and that I should consider a homebirth with a midwife. I thought she was insane! I mean, didn't she realize my first born nearly DIED at birth and the doctors at the hospital heroically saved his life?!?! What would I have done in that situation if I were at home?! Well, after doing some research I learned that the complications we encountered were in fact brought on by the myriad of interventions that same doctor who "saved" my baby had given me. I continued on my hunt for as much information as I could find about the differences between a homebirth and hospital birth and how they lined up statistically. The more I found out, the more I was convinced, I needed to stay home! Shortly after searching for a home birth midwife I would discover this was not an option in NY. In NY, midwives are CNM's (certified nurse midwives) which can often be just another name for an obstetrician who is not qualified to perform a c-section. They must work in the same practice under the supervision of an OB and they do not provide homebirth services. Having no idea how to seek out a DEM (direct entry midwife), I was out of luck. What to do, what to do? Well... convinced there must be another option I began searching on the internet for anything homebirth related. That's when I found Laura Shanley's "Born Free" website. I was immediately fascinated by the information about the normalcy of childbirth and couldn't stop reading. I spent hours and hours just taking in birth from this radically different perspective. Could this all be true? Could birth be a beautiful intimate experience as opposed to a medically terrifying event? I read story after story after story, and before I logged off her site I realized that I *was* unassisted birth, and all of the beauty that entailed, I simply hadn't had the experience yet.

One of the reasons why I love Laura Shanley's take on childbirth is because she focuses on how important our thoughts are and the power the mind has to affect the body. This was something I could totally relate to with my previous 2 pregnancy and birth experiences. I was what a doctor would call "high risk", I suffered from "preterm labor" beginning at 27 weeks. Believe it or not, during my second pregnancy, I was told by my midwife that my body "can't hold a baby past 27 weeks" so I should consider not having any more children. I spent the second pregnancy on bed rest with a turbuteline pump injected into my thigh (IV style) pumping medicine into my body every four hours. I had to strap myself to an external fetal monitoring machine for one hour 3 times a day and send the report through the phone line immediately afterward. If I had more than 5 contractions an hour, I was to mega-dose with the pump and start the process all over again! If this occurred 3 times in a row I was sent to the L&D at the hospital and was put on a "mag-wash" (magnesium sulfate, otherwise known as HELL ON EARTH! ouch!) for a certain amount of hours and then stay for observation. I wasn't a very good candidate for a homebirth, no less unassisted, or was I?

You see, I was dealing with some very emotionally stressful times back then, and my minds way of dealing with it was this very dramatic pregnancy. I don't remember doing it at all consciously but somehow I knew deep inside that this was the external manifestation of the pain and suffering I was going through silently. When I decided I wanted an unassisted homebirth, I realized that I needed to create a peaceful environment for myself. One in which I could focus on the positive and prove to myself if I really did have control over how "high risk" or not I actually was. The changes I made were dramatic. I moved out of state, left all of the negative influences behind me and began my journey of surrounding myself with peace, joy and love. I learned to love myself during this time. I began to appreciate my own body and dealt with all the hidden shame I felt about the functions of my body and how it looked. I would spend time in the mirror looking at my not-so-perky breasts and falling in love with them. I would say good things about my body and the amazing journey it had been on with me throughout my entire life. I started practicing prenatal yoga, and putting music on at random times of the day and dancing without care. I would rub cream on my belly, breasts and legs and take care of every inch of my body. It was a very healing time for me. I even growed my underarm and leg hair just so I could learn to love myself that way! And I did! I shaved as soon as I accepted myself naturally (a personal preference!) but it felt good :-)

Before I knew it, I was 27 weeks pregnant... remember, that was my magic number, right? As soon as I realized I hit 27 weeks I began to have contractions. I couldn't help but to wonder if it was my looking at the calender that brought on those contractions. I decided I was going to have a little chat with my mind. I told myself that the contractions weren't necessary unless they were happening to prepare my uterus for birth. I told myself that I didn't need to let the world know I was hurting through a broken pregnancy, but that I could use the pregnancy to show myself and the world that I am healed inside, and out. Wouldn't you know... no more scary, non-stop contractions! I did notice however that my body did have more than 5 contractions an hour sometimes and that was simply a normal thing for me, no need for concern. So there it was. All the confirmation I needed that my mind was this VERY powerful force that I had given in to, and allowed my circumstances to sabotage my pregnancy and birth experiences. I thought about how this is not only related to birth but to all aspects of our living. This is how worrisome people can turn into cancer patients, and stressed out people give themselves heart attacks. This is about me controlling my mind and not allowing my mind to have control over me. Some women are all too happy about their fears of birth. They cling on to their fear based thinking as if it's a wonderful thing because they are terrified to consider the possibility that if they let their guard down they may just find out that "safe" place they want to give birth isn't really safe at all.

So that was where my unassisted birth journey began. And that is why Laura Shanley will always be a beacon of light to me when it comes to overcoming fear, shame, guilt, worry and moving towards a state of empowerment and peace. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Laura in person, though we've corresponded through email over the years and belong to some awesome birth-y yahoo groups together, but her influence will be with me forever. I have used the tools I learned from her and have transformed every area of my life dramatically for the better. Here I am... planning yet another unassisted birth, having had several wonderfully simple ones under my belt already :-)

You will always be my birth hero!


Laura Shanley said...

This made my day, Angel! I'm so glad you've found my work helpful. As you know, I get more than my fair share of criticism, so reading this was especially meaningful for me. Congratulations on your wonderful births, and best of luck with the next one!

Angel said...

Thanks Laura!

I bet you get an awful lot of negative responses to your beliefs and your work. Even in this video, I find it amusing to watch the woman interviewing you cross her legs tighter and tighter the more you talk! LOL I'm so glad you push through all of that so the women like me all over the world can benefit from your wisdom and experience!