*** Updated 8/21 – When Bridget got her iron level checked pre-delivery it was at 10.6 g/dL. Today after one week supplementing with the placenta pills, it was 12.9 g/dL. The nurse said that was a big jump as typically women’s numbers can be lower due to postpartum bleeding. Bridget stopped postpartum bleeding on day 6, which is a stark contrast from the 6 weeks of bleeding after her first child. The nurse also noted that timeline was very quick***
Got your attention? Great..
But before I get into why there are strips of placenta and my boy’s umbilical cord headed into my dehydrator, I will explain the reason for this post and why I placed it in the Self Reliance category.
It’s not a how-to on birthing or a how-to on anything really. It is more of along the lines of freeing yourself from the cultural practices, myths, and fears that hold us all back from new experiences. Immaturity and ignorance were my captors that kept me enslaved in the myth that childbirth is anything but an amazing, beautiful experience.
The light bulb first turned on when I heard Barb, the Birth Warrior, make a profound statement in the birthing class at the Lisa Ross Birth Center.
“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” – Laura Stavoe Harm
She continued on to ask us “how would our society look at birth if we talked about how powerful the experience was, instead of how painful?“.
Barb was speaking my language, and as I looked around the room, I realized that it was not unlike an MMA gym. She was getting her team ready for the fight, and the six pregnant ladies in the room were transforming into warriors getting ready to overcome physical and mental obstacles that I will never face. It was week 36 of their training camp and Barb broke out all the tools of a good coach. Positive statements, visualization, and affirmations, it made me feel like I was back at the gym.
It all clicked, and 38 years of thinking the birthing process was gross came crashing down around me. Up until this point, I had just been along for the ride and avoided watching the homebirths on youtube. That was all about to change though.
My wife’s first child 12 years ago, was a hospital birth induced by Pitocin and numbed by an epidural. My step-daughter was then whisked away in the all too common story of modern birthing, while my doped up wife felt powerless in the procedure.
Not this time though. My wife, wiser in her years, was determined to bring this child into the world in a different manner. She delved into book after book and website after website as she developed her birthing plan. For months I watched her already healthy diet get pushed to new levels and eat stuff that would make a billy goat puke, all to strengthen the child growing in her belly.
I bought into her vision after watching a documentary on natural birthing. The Business of Being Born https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvljyvU_ZGE
It stimulated discussion and since we both have an emergency medical background (Paramedic & EMT), we discussed an unassisted homebirth. We also looked into midwives, but in the end we chose a birthing center that was 45 minutes from the house. For us, the Lisa Ross Birth Center seemed like a great balance of autonomy and the security of having a team of team of professionals on hand. http://www.lisarosscenter.org/
I guess this story has multiple roles. It is intended not only to share our experience with friends and family, but to also highlight alternative birthing options and resources for those that may be unaware of their existence or reasoning. Maybe, just maybe, it will also help quench the plethora of questions from family about why we make the choices we do 🙂
And here is where our story shall begin..
It seemed like a regular night, but my wife was a little restless. All cracked up on some hormone cocktail, I managed to slyly record her tirade about the TJ Maxx clerk that keeps asking “you still haven’t had that baby yet?”
At 39 weeks, my wife really still has three weeks until health risks arise, but the clerk probably naively thinks, as I did, that a pregnancy lasts nine months. http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/giving-birth/full-term-baby-birth/ I know my wife means business because her hand is cocked on her hip as she launches into a treatise on full term pregnancies.That priceless footage, saved on my phone, will become the source of many laughs over the years.
So my wife cools off with an evening walk and retires to the bedroom. I saunter in a little later, throw in her favorite movie, and watch the Lord of the Rings for the millionth time.
As if on cue, the ominous music from the scene where Bilbo drops the ring on the floor in front of Gandalf elicits a response from my wife.. “I think my water just broke”
Shit just got real… My mind processes the new information and I initiate a sequence of actions that we had game planned.
I call the center.
We already knew that we had to head that way due to a positive GBS test that would require antibiotic treatment per the center’s protocol. Group Beta Strep, GBS, is an asymptomatic bacteria that can live around your nether regions, causing no harm to the host. In infants though, it can have very detrimental effects on your child. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/groupbstrepinfection.html
As a treatment, the birth center’s protocol requires them to administer IV anitbiotics every four hours until birth. This reduces the chances from 1 in 200 to 1 in 4000. We weren’t fans of killing off the good bacteria in my wife’s gut or the antibiotics doing the same to our son, but it is not an optional procedure there. Would we have opted out if we could have? Probably. We were planning on a water birth and research has shown that risks are reduced in that birthing style. http://www.rcog.org.uk/womens-health/clinical-guidance/group-b-strep-and-water-birth-query-bank
The truck is already packed, so we roll out, stopping by Kroger to grab some last minute snacks to throw in the cooler. That’s right. A cooler full of food and not ice chips, and at Lisa Ross you get that choice. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265206.php
At 1130 , Chris, the midwife on call, meets us to let us in. As the only clients that night, we get our room of choice with the big birthing tub. My wife gets her first round of IV antibiotics, chases it with some probiotics, and I take up a strategic position to watch and wait.
Looming over our heads is the dreaded “24 hour” rule, which states that my wife must be in active labor and 4 cm dilated within 24 hours of admittance or she will have to be transferred to UT hospital down the road. Typically they will have you come in 12 hours after your water breaks, but GBS has put us at a 12 hour disadvantage.
Nothing is happening, just the regular Braxton-Hicks contractions. I pass the time by working on my skills of catching my wife in unflattering poses that we can later laugh about. I giggle with joy as I discover the fish eye feature on my camera that can shrink my wife’s head and skew her proportions.
Time marches on, only briefly interrupted every half hour as Chris monitors vitals of mother and baby. My wife builds her own arsenal of staged “thoughtless” husband pictures as I check the bed to see if it will suit her comfort levels…
The sun rises and no labor. It’s now 8:00 am and we consult with Chris. My wife has been actively walking and bouncing on a yoga ball all night and now it is time to up the ante. Bring forth the Nipple Sucker 2000…
This hospital grade breast pump that has the power to make every woman within a square mile lactate, or so the claim goes. Apparently, nipple stimulation is a powerful Oxytocin stimulant and Oxytocin means labor!! http://www.birthingnaturally.net/cn/technique/nipple.html
Typically, this technique stimulates contractions during the third or fourth hour of use. Forty five minutes on, fifteen minutes off for four cycles and nothing happened. Since I was scolded on the drive in for trying the same, the failure of this cyborg provides an open door for my “Man vs. Machine” jokes.
It’s around noon and we opt to have the new shift check to see her progression. 1 cm. Not good. Only 10 hours until that ship to UT hospital sets sail and we’re holding tickets…
We discuss and agree to do the last resort on the natural induction list. Castor oil stimulates the bowels, which in turn can stimulate the uterus. My timing is perfect, as I catch her mid gag. http://pregnancy.about.com/od/induction/a/castoroil.htm
It was about this time that I made a run to the store for more food, which proved fortunate. I return to find evacuation complete, and we start to make a little progress with mild 45 second contractions every two minutes. Time keeps ticking, but fortune favors us as I run into the “Birth Warrior” in the parking lot and ask her sage advice.
She rattles off a bunch of MMA sounding moves, like the “Rebozo” and the “Walter’s Technique”, that can help to get his head to drop lower and engage. I am clueless and she can see that, so Barb kindly steps in to our suite and demonstrates them. It is time to “Do Work”..
My wife and I found each other from a common interest in Crossfit, and while we don’t subscribe to it anymore, it is time to set up a circuit. We call it “Brave”
AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible):
10 minutes Rebozo
10 minutes hip rotations
5 minutes of Walters
15 minutes walking
Rest on all fours
I watch the timer.. Switch.. Let’s go outside.. Switch.. This goes on for hours.
The only respite is that it is one of the prettiest days of the summer outside and we have the freedom to enjoy it. With no constant fetal monitoring or attached IV line, my wife is free to move around at will. While she hikes the stairs, I document the flora..
Lisa Ross is about freedom. Freedom to play your music and to wear what you please; to flood the room with aromatherapy oils and shake the walls with your screams if needed; to opt out of vaccines and eye drops for STD’s that you don’t have and to allow you to help deliver your own baby. It’s all there and that is how it should be.
At 6:30 pm we decided to see if she had progressed and Ellen’s news crushes us.
Bridget is still only at 1 cm.
With only four hours left it was time to talk about the real possibility of transitioning to the hospital and the inevitable Pitocin induced labor. The midwives, Jody and Ellen, were great in helping us shift our mindset, but my wife’s heart sank. Jody suggested that we snuggle, rest, and try to save our energy. When she left the room my wife broke down and wept.
It was the deep cry of despair. A cry from a mother who had denied herself for 39 weeks eating an ultra healthy diet. It was a cry of a woman who envisioned a beautiful, natural birth only to have to fight for it with no reward. It was a cry of a warrior that had pushed her body and mind for 20 straight hours as the clocked ticked away only to taste defeat..
But most importantly, it was a cry that induced labor..
The emotional release brought about the long awaited contractions that crashed into her body. Their intensity and frequency grew alongside the screams of my wife. Taser like waves of pain racked her body for a sixty second ride letting her rest only briefly before the next pulse.
Lost in the pain, my wife forgets some important lessons, but is thrown a lifeline. After finishing a class upstairs, Barb stops in to check on Bridget. The timing and advice could not have been better. Like a coach in the corner, she focuses Bridget, telling her to let the last round go. The quick speech on breathing and lowering her pitch was all that Bridget needed to face the next rounds.
The effect is immediate. My wife’s screams are transformed into powerful moans that you can feel in the air. The game has changed and my wife is winning. Her brief moments of weakness over the next couple hours are easily defeated with positive affirmations and her strong will that was forged from years of firefighting, Crossfit workouts, and a GoRuck challenge.
It is 10 pm and Ellen suggests we check to see if all Bridget’s work is paying off.
We are elated to hear she is at 7 cm and that we get to stay!!
Ellen and Jody start prepping for the delivery and page the on duty nurse. They start drawing the birthing tub and since I decided to join Bridget to help deliver my boy, I grab a quick shower.
When I get out, Bridget is already in the tub. I am pumped and ready to go. I ask the midwife how long until Bridget is fully dilated to 10 cm and am told it can be a bit. My boy had other plans though and during a powerful contraction his head unexpectedly pops out.
When my wife’s concerned voice tells us that his head is arriving, the midwives are in the process of gloving up, so I reach down and cradle my child’s head. A fraction of a second later, a gloved up Jody has taken control. She directs my wife on the last push, clears the cord from his neck like a pro, and my son is immediately on my wife’s chest.
I never had time to hit the start button on the video camera I set up, but I am snapped out of my state of wonder long enough to grab a photo of my son gazing upon his mother for the first time.
I marvel at the scene before me, as the countless Hollywood images of screaming babies being born are replaced by the peaceful, alert presence of my son. My wife’s pain and frustration have now been replaced by joy, and the real meaning of Barb’s quote takes root. I am humbled and secretly vow to do my part to shift the societal perspective of birthing.
Born just fifteen minutes before the “24 hour” mark at 10:13 pm, Brave William Herrington weighed in at 7 pounds 12.5 ounces. My ill-informed concerns about my wife’s vegetarian diet not providing enough protein are just more false notions to cast aside.
We move Bridget and Brave to the bed to deliver the placenta. When the pulse in the umbilical cord finally stops beating, Jody clamps it and I cut it. Delayed cord clamping is one of the many choices we researched and decided upon. http://academicobgyn.com/2009/12/03/delayed-cord-clamping-should-be-standard-practice-in-obstetrics/
Brave is suckling within ten minutes and I know the skin-to-skin contact that he shares with his mother now, and for weeks to come, is promoting bonding, regulating his body temperature, and colonizing his skin with beneficial bacteria. http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&id=82:the-importance-of-skin-to-skin-contact-&Itemid=17
We then get an anatomy lesson on the placenta from Jody, who packages it up, and puts it in a special refrigerator for us to take home in the morning. The miraculous organ that has sustained my son will continue that role.
Which finally brings us to the Jerky Factory picture that probably got your attention. Self-reliance isn’t just about gardening, guns, and other homesteading endeavors. It is also about freeing yourself from societal and educational bondage by the use of critical thinking.
Did I think 39 weeks ago that I would be dehydrating my wife’s placenta, grinding it up, and feeding her the pills? Nope, but after researching the practice why wouldn’t I want an all natural supplement, that significantly decreases postpartum bleeding, helps the uterus return to it’s pre-pregnancy size within a couple of weeks, enriches the milk and ensures an abundant supply? What man in his right mind wouldn’t want to smooth out the postpartum “crash” and avoid any hormonal turmoil? http://www.placentawise.com/research-studies-supporting-placenta-encapsulation/
Couple all those benefits with the ability to gross out my squeamish friends and we have a winner.
Jody, Bridget, and Ellen
Where do we go from here?
Well after 12 hours we were released to go home and continue our journey.
A journey that questions why we do the things we do and cling to beliefs that may no longer serve us.
A journey that starts out with the question “why not?”, instead of “why?”
A journey that takes courage and a boy named Brave…
Special thanks to Chris, Jody, Ellen, Allison, Elizabeth, and Barb!!
I would also like to thank the Lisa Ross Birth Center for providing a place where women can birth how they want to and opening my eyes to new wonders.