Birth tales

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant, I read one of the classic homebirth books, “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.” It includes the birth stories of dozens of women who gave birth at The Farm, a Tennessee commune, in the 1970s and 1980s, examples of laid-back hippie mamas giving birth naturally and, for the most part, without complications. It was a good book to read then; it felt like setting my pregnancy-ship on a good course.

These days — as my due date looms seven weeks away — I am fixating on the many other birth stories I have heard since then. There’s my midwife, whose own water broke at 35 weeks. Although her daughter was technically pre-term, she was a healthy weight and fully functional from the get-go. (This one leaves me imagining that I need to put the vinyl cover on the bed RIGHT NOW and that there won’t be any time after my maternity leave begins to get last-minute things done.) There’s I., who never got a chance to labor because her baby was breech, and in the doctor’s attempt at an external version, discovered she had too little amniotic fluid and ordered an immediate C-section.

I’ve heard tales of 36-minute labors and four-day labors. Our yoga/birth teacher has had more than one woman in labor in her yoga classes, including one whose water broke during a workshop. My chiropractor has had at least one laboring woman on her magical chiro table with the trapdoor section for pregnant bellies. At least two of my friends had homebirths involving birth tubs (our Plan A) that lasted less than six hours and worked out beautifully. That sounds surprisingly quick, but I suppose there’s something to be said for getting it over with. Two friends of mine had a troubled labor that ended in a C-section, and another had a variety of tough interventions plus a hemorrhage. Yikes.

Because I’m one of those people who likes to imagine a scenario before getting into the thick of it, and because this isn’t one of those situations where I can make a specific chain of events completely happen just by planning, I keep placing myself in these other stories, imagining how I’d be. I won’t know for a while yet whether any of this mental wankery is useful, but I keep turning the stories over in my mind. And I wonder, too, whether my birth story will be one that’s told — by other people besides me, I mean — when the time comes.

— Beth


  1. Réka said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Advice: Re-read Ina May’s book. ;)

    Seriously, your mindset, the “baggage” you bring with you into labor hugely affects the way your labor turns out.

    There are some classic emotional turning points in labor. One is around 4 cm, when active labor usually begins. But only if you make a conscious decision to allow it, otherwise it stalls around this point.

    Another classic stalling point is around 8 cm, apparently many women who’ve been abused stall at this point in labor.

    I just mention these because they’re very typical, and illustrate how emotional factors can interfere with the birth process. So it’s best to go into it with your head filled to the brim with positive stories.

  2. Donna said,

    January 18, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    We’re all different, but my water never actually broke, it just trickled. If I’d paid attention to our dog at the time (she followed me throughout the house all evening), I would have known something was going to happen that night. My first contraction was at 10:50 p.m. and Jay was born at 3:44 a.m. Jan 15, 1992…..It’s really an awesome experience. Annie called me last Thursday morning and said, “I know where we were 17 years ago!”

  3. thecarrawayseed said,

    January 18, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Reka — I wish I understood more about those emotional transition points and what causes them, other than the difficulty itself. KNOWING that when I reach like 8cm is when I’ll feel like giving up actually helps — “When I feel my worst may be when I’m almost there.”

    Donna — I’ve heard most head-down babies block most of the flow, so it’s not a huge gush, yeah. :) You had a really quick labor, didn’t you! I’m hoping for one that’s not super long, not super quick — just right. Say hi to Annie for me; I feel badly that I haven’t had time to write back to her letters, but I’m thinking of you both!

  4. Alyse said,

    February 2, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Both of my babies were face up. The nurses with my son and midwife with my daughter deceided to let the babies move along naturally. I ended up getting an epidural with both. That was the most exquisite pain I have ever felt. From what I understand it is unusual for the baby to not be a c-section baby when they are face up so even though it took MUCH longer and a whole hell of a lot of hardcore pushing I am glad the midwives let it happen that way lol.

    With my son my water never broke. It came out whole. It was very weird and the nurses all looked a little freaked out (bad). But a sac of fluid came out before my son, several hours before him actually. It popped when they moved me to see what was going on. Weird.

    The midwife with my daughter was very good. She kept tabs on me regularly and broke my water manually. And she is actually the one that delivered the baby. I had to take a break from pushing because my blood pressure was too high from pushing soooo damn hard. Then the nurse made me actually sit up (they had really nice tables) in a sort of squatting position which was actually quite comfortable LOL.

    With both of them I had contractions that rode the top of the graph paper LOL so in a way I am glad I was at a hospital and given the option of an epi. Natural birth is great for those that can handle it. I am not one of those that can. With my son the epi didn’t happen until it was almost too late and I couldn’t control my body for the pain. I don’t really remember (lovely brain defense mechanism to the rescue!) but am told that I was contorting into all kinds of bizzare shapes. eek.

    So here is hoping you have a normal birth, without complications or too much pain :). I think I had enough of that for both of us lol.

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