In which I ask Nell about tough decisions and discuss birth

November 10, 2007

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This was her answer: not vaccinating. Then she asked me:

… tell me about your natural births. Why did you decide to go that route? Are you happy with the decision to go natural? What exactly did “natural birth” look like for you?

I love this question. :) I love birth, I love talking about birth, reading about birth, and even the smell of birth. Yep – birth has a smell and I’m always sad when the smell goes away a few days afterwards.

My first baby was born in a hospital. I had been indoctrinated, if you will, into the cult of natural childbirth by my mother. When she had my sister, she was tied up (literally – her hands and legs were tied down). When she asked why, the hospital staff said: “So you won’t touch the baby.” My sister’s Dad was of course, not allowed anywhere near. This was just before the days of hippie husbands handcuffing themselves to their birthing women so they could be right there for the birth!

(Pic to the right - pushing with Sadie.)

She was drugged and felt nothing from the waist down. Then, for two days afterwards, she could not lift her head off the pillow because the Docs told her she could get a blood clot and die (wth?!). So, the ladies in the nursery took care of my sister. They also gave my mom a shot without her permission. When she inquired why, they told her “why, to dry up your milk, dear“. My mom was perplexed. Milk? What milk? She didn’t know anything about breastfeeding and they didn’t even give her the option!

Fast forward 7 years. She gave birth to me. My Dad was her “coach” and in the birth pictures, he figures so prominently (you can hardly see the Doctor because he did what good birthing Docs do – stay out of the way) that for years when I was little, I thought my dear ole Dad moonlighted as an OB!

My Mom said there was “no pain”. Of course, I think there is a hint of that Mom Amnesia that God throws in there to ensure that women will procreate, lol! But seriously – as soon as I was born, she looked up at my father and said: “Oh, when can we do this again!?”

I heard this story so many times in my childhood that it left a deep impression on me. It told me that birth is not like it is in the movies, with women screaming like banshees and losing control. My mother, with her deeply tanned skin and long dark wavy hair, looked like some kind of Native American princess giving birth to me. Hearing her contrast that experience with her first birth made me think that unmedicated was the way to go.

(Pic to the left: me laboring in water with Sadie.)

Then I got the benefit of learning about my sister’s 4 births. Three of her babies were big, and she had them without drugs. She’s one stubborn woman! In fact, the same thing happened in all of her births. Her babies all had really round heads that didn’t seem to mold at all. At some point in her labor, the staff would start prepping for a C-section for “failure to progress”. At this point she would practically stand up on the bed and scream, “I didn’t come this far only to be cut open. Give me 5 minutes and I’ll get this kid out!” Then she would get real quiet and talk to her baby inside of her, and tell him to help her out! I know it sounds strange, but I did the exact same thing with a couple of mine. I would talk to them during my labor and asked them to help me. I also talked to God a lot. :)

I guess you could say unmedicated birth was my “norm”. So when I got pregnant with Caleb, I looked into childbirth education classes and picked the Bradley method. I liked their philosophy, so me and dh took classes. Caleb was born in the hospital. I insisted on not having continuous fetal monitoring. (I knew that led to increased Cesarean rates and false “babies in distress” drama.) I was like some kind of birth plan Nazi because every time a new nurse walked into the room I would nicely ask her to read it. I was determined that I was going to have the birth I wanted, not the birth the hospital administration wanted me to have. I never let Caleb leave my sight, and he slept in the hospital bed with me too.

While his birth went wonderfully, there were things I was unhappy with, like my midwife leaving me during labor to go care for the patients in her practice, and then coming back – after I had pushed for FOUR hours. A homebirth midwife would have been there every second, helping me change positions to ease pushing. The labor and delivery nurse saw that I had an undilated “lip” of cervix that was impeding his head moving down the birth canal, so she put her hand inside to move it away as I pushed, which helped me make faster progress. But knowing what I know now, a lay midwife would have meant a much shorter birth and easier recovery for me.

After he was born, I got my hands on a copy of Spiritual Midwifery and after reading it, that was all she wrote! I was convinced that I would have my next baby at home. I had Julien 2 years and 9 months later and his birth was like a DREAM. I honestly felt little discomfort - it was like bad menstrual cramps. I labored for 8 hours, and only the last two were uncomfy. I was sold on homebirth!

23 months later came Ilana. Girlfriend weighed in at 10 pounds, and I’m certain that if I had been in a hospital, I would have had a C – section. The reason being, after a few hours of labor, things just stalled out. When you’re at home, the midwives don’t view this as any big emergency – they change your position, squirt some herbs under your tongue, send you to bed for a nap or some kootchie – koo with your husband (what put the baby in will often help get the baby out!) or whatever. They also realize that sometimes emotional stuff can impede birth. For me, it was some personal issues around my relationship with the Dad (not mine, the baby’s). When that came up I started to cry really hard, and after that things started to progress.

Another issue was the fact that my living room had become Grand Central Station with two midwives, one midwife apprentice, two kids, G-ma and G-pa, and dh. My main midwife sensed this and sent me to my room LOL! Being alone helped me focus, and that kickstarted things too.

2 years later came Sadie, and her birth was much like Julien’s – super easy. In fact the midwives almost didn’t arrive in time for the birth because I kept putting off calling them.

My births were definitely some of the most wonderful points of my life. One thing though – people are always saying to me that choosing homebirth makes me “brave”, but I don’t see it that way. I felt scared and out of control in the hospital environment. I didn’t feel fear at home, so I’m not brave for choosing homebirth. I just don’t see birth as a medical event. I love the fact that my older kids witnessed some of their sibling’s arrival. For them, birth is a social event. Nobody is screaming or carrying on, but there is a bit of grunting!

Also, I don’t feel like some kind of superwoman. I realize how lucky I was to have uneventful pregnancies. Some mothers shouldn’t even attempt homebirth because they have special circumstances going on. I’m very thankful! I loved every moment of birth – even the painful ones where you feel, as Carol Burnett put it, like your bottom lip is being stretched over the top of your head lol!

(Pic to the right – moments after Sadie’s birth)

There are many things I love about homebirth. Being able to walk around and do what you want are so nice. Being in your own comfy environment is nice. Having a midwife means you get to labor or push anywhere you like… on the toilet if it’s most comfortable! In water, out of water, in bed, on all fours, wherever.

You also get to shower in your own bathroom afterwards, eat wonderful delicous food (and beer – I always wanted Guinness after my births – try drinking that in a hospital!), and snuggle up with your new baby in your own bed minutes after the birth if you want to. It’s so nice. :)

Plus, you don’t have to drive home. That drive taking Caleb home from the hospital was the most stressful ride of my life! And wouldn’t you know that dh actually got LOST. How do you get lost going somewhere that’s 15 minutes from your house? LOL! It took us about 35 minutes to get home and I was totally stressed out. You don’t have to go anywhere after a homebirth. The midwife even comes to your house to check up on you and the baby postpartum!

So now I have a question for you: If you had never had children, what do you think you would be doing right now?


And for readers, if you haven’t read the other posts in the conversation with Nell, click on the “cross blog conversations” category to the right.

More Posts By Carrie:


13 Responses to “In which I ask Nell about tough decisions and discuss birth”

  1. Tsoniki on November 10th, 2007 2:30 am

    I always love reading about your birth stories Carrie. It reminds me of my Mom. :) We talked about giving birth not very often, but when I was pregnant with my first child we did a lot. I never understood women screaming and making a lot of noise – I figured that did more bad then good. And my Grandma said the same thing. I didn’t scream when giving birth, sure it hurt but it wasn’t that bad that I felt like screaming – think of the energy it takes to scream! Use that energy to push!

    I delivered both of my babies in the hospital – the first we had medical problems and with the second I (and my family) was scared it would happen again but with him I really wished he could have been born at home. His birth was SO easy and I felt excellent afterward – I tried to sign myself out that night I felt so good.

    Both of my births progressed nicely and with the second I only pushed three times and there he was! I didn’t have any birth plans but didn’t get drugs with either – though I admit I panicked toward the end of both and asked both times! Everyone said too late, the babies are coming and sure enough, there they were.

    Reading this reminds me of how good it feels to be pregnant and give birth, thank you Carrie, this is perfect timing for me. :)

  2. casual friday everyday on November 10th, 2007 2:42 am

    Very intriguing stuff! I have to say there was screaming with mine ;) Especially the first. It was the most horrible, wretched pain I’ve felt. I suspect some of that has to do with the fact that I was induced. Plus I both of them were pressing down on my right hip and that was where much of the shooting pain was. So, for me there was the screaming you see in movies. The second was better, but still very very painful.

    The reason I asked you about this is that I am looking into other options besides the typical hosp. birth should we have more kids, though. I already know the epi doesn’t work properly with me. I know that I don’t like to be strapped down in a bed and have all kinds of monitors hooked to me and lines coming out of my veins.

    With my second son the nurse encouraged me to get into the tub. It was bliss! I felt NO pain whatesoever. This was in the very beginning of the labor. She asked me to get out in order to check me and break my water. Once that happened the pain was terribly intense.

    They hooked me up to monitors so I couldn’t get back into the water (if I would have raised a fuss I probably could have) and at that time I asked for the epi. I am very curious about water births now. It makes perfect sense to me. Anytime I’m aching, have bad cramps, have the flu, just have some type of aches or pains the first thing I want to do is soak in a hot bath.

    It always takes away my pain or at least eases it. I’ve done this since I was young with menstral cramps. And I know that it felt awesome in the beginning of labor … so I’m really interested in this for the entire labor and delivery, should we have more kids.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Although I suspect you have a better pain tolerance than I do … I know that every woman does have it in them to have a natural birth (or at least the birth they’re hoping for) if they really want to.

  3. Jen @ One Moms World on November 11th, 2007 2:48 pm

    Gosh all these baby posts :( .

    You are amazing Carrie. I would love to do a water birth. My labors are so short and sweet that I think I would do really good. I think I will always long for the third baby I have always said I wanted :( . Oh well. God had other plans for us ;)

  4. Elizabeth ashe on November 11th, 2007 4:12 pm

    Oh Carrie I know exactly what you mean , i had two of my children naturally with no medication, but i had them in a natural birthing center that was five minutes from my home. I had two big babies and one small baby and they all had round heads too!

    Giving birth naturally in a homey environment is one of the coolest things that ever happened to me.

  5. Casual Friday Everyday » If I Never Had Kids... on November 12th, 2007 3:13 pm

    [...] My sweetie is home from school sick today, so I thought this would be a good time to answer Carrie’s latest question to me. If you want to read her answer to my last question (tell me about your natural births) check it out here Natural Birth at Home. [...]

  6. mama k on November 12th, 2007 7:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing your stories!
    My first birth was much like you described. I took Bradley and found a supportive OB (when I was 7mo along I switched practices). I demanded a natural hospital birth and it went as well as I could have hoped. I stll want a water birth though and I will be planning a homebirth next go round.
    I also just saw the movie The Business of Being Born and posted my thoughs on my blog. It’s a MUST see!

  7. on November 12th, 2007 9:46 pm

    Nell, I think the induction might have everything to do with your pain. I was induced with my first and the pain was so terrible I was screaming just like you. I got an epi.

    With my second I planned on going natural “if” I could and that labor was so fast and painless I was in pure bliss. I was nine centimeters before I even knew I was in labor.

  8. Tishia Lee on November 13th, 2007 11:15 pm

    I had my son via c-section (with no medication up until they had to prep me for my c-section) and it’s sad to think back to it because I was so doped up on Morphine after the surgery that I don’t remember even holding him for the first time :-(

    I always thought women that went the natural births at home were crazy but I completely understand why they all do it now! I think it would be so much more ‘relaxing’ to be able to be at home and not have a gazillion people in your face telling you to do this and do that,etc.

    My doctor told me that if I ever have any more children I will have to have a c-section and whether that is true or not I don’t know but if it is true that’s very disappointing to me because the more I read and learn about all this natural stuff the more I want to experience it!

    I loved reading your story Carrie!

  9. Cara on November 13th, 2007 11:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing. We planned a natural birth, I even had a NP/Midwife. But it ended up being very dramatic. I developed pre-eclampsya, borderline HELLP, and had to have an emergency c-section because the placenta abrupted. It was a freak thing and shouldn’t happen again. Next time I will go the full 9 months and do it like a woman – all natural!

  10. Carrie on November 14th, 2007 8:02 pm

    Well maybe we are a little crazy Tishia. LOL! Your Doctor told you the standard party line but there are many women who pulled off a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean), even VBAC at home! You might want to research that if a baby is ever in your future. ;)

  11. Carrie on November 14th, 2007 8:05 pm

    Cara – I’m sorry all that happened and you didn’t have the birth you imagined. There’s always the next one. :)

  12. Wendy on November 15th, 2007 6:16 am

    I’m just catching up on my blog reading, and LOVED what you shared! I could relate to so much of it! I really appreciate what you said about people calling you “brave”. I can’t count how many women at church said that to me after my homebirths, and all I can think is “There wasn’t anything brave about it, having a baby is just a normal part of life.” I wish more women would really grasp that fact, but at least my daughters know the truth now and are on the right path. :)

  13. What is being a Natural Mom all about? on November 22nd, 2007 4:43 pm

    [...] My mom also talked at length about her birth and mothering experiences. I wrote about this recently on my blog ( and that had a lot of impact on me choosing natural birth. Watching my sister’s experiences also influenced me. [...]

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