The minute I saw that life changing line, the one where you gasp for air as butterflies fill your entire chest, I wanted to know all there was to know about pregnancy and birth. Blessed were we when we found out we were expecting only 2 months after saying our vows. The pregnancy was expected and surprising all at once and completely welcome. I discovered very early on that I wanted to have our baby at home. After watching The Business of Being Born late one cold, winter night, a fire was ignited in my belly. It is a fire that still burns today and one that only grows with time. I was so inspired. I was empowered. I was going to welcome our baby into the world in our home with the help of our midwife. It would be beautiful. It would be joyous. It would be peaceful.
During my pregnancy, I read everything I could about pregnancy and birth and felt well prepared and informed. I felt confident. My husband and I signed up for a Hypnobirthing class, which at the time seemed to be a good idea. While the relaxation exercises were helpful during labor, I even use them in my day-to-day life, I was disappointed at the brevity of the class as it related to actual pregnancy and birth. I’m not sure if it was the method or the instructor we chose, but I felt that everything was simply glossed over and the practice of self-hypnosis was really all we focused on. I wouldn’t know how profoundly the decision of what type of childbirth class we chose would affect us until much later, but I can say it was a decision I deeply regret.
At 35 weeks, my blood pressure began to climb and despite all of my efforts (bedrest, herbs, protein, acupuncture), I developed preeclampsia at 37 weeks. I mourned the loss of my homebirth and put on a brave face, but I was terrified of induction. I went to the hospital on a Monday morning for a biophysical profile and was told I needed to admitted immediately. While in triage, I was on the phone with my midwife discussing my wish to avoid any epidural anesthesia, even if I had to have Pitocin. The triage nurse told me I was being stupid. “There’s no need to be a hero.”
My lengthy induction included being bullied into a foley bulb, threatened with a cesarean, and lied to by a resident about my midwife ordering interventions. As the second phase began and I began to feel the urge to bear down, my son’s heart rate began to drop. I pushed and pushed and made little progress. I remember the nurses unhooking the lines to my IV to wheel me into surgery. My midwife looked deeply into my eyes and with a stern, but loving voice said, “Carmen, you have got to push this baby out.” In a magnesium sulphate haze, I sensed her urgency and pulled all the strength I had left to fight for at least a glimpse of the birth I had hoped for. 48 hours after the first intervention to start my labor, my baby was born vaginally and without pain medication.
I felt so utterly triumphant to have gone through a Pitocin induction without pain medication. It showed me how strong and tenacious I am. It was my first experience as a ferocious mama bear. As magical as it all was, there was still a hallow feeling, a very deep disappointment about not being able to have the birth I had so hoped for. This feeling morphed into anxiety, which was accompanied by horrible visions of tragic and gruesome things happening to my baby. I suffered in silence and feared I was crazy, but I feared even more what my family would think.
Luckily, with my second birth, I was able to manage my blood pressure throughout the pregnancy with the help of the Brewer Diet. I was able to welcome our son peacefully into the world at home and it was the most empowering, profound experience of my life. I wish every woman on the earth could experience the joys and triumphs of a natural birth. The cocktail of hormones that accompany that gooey, wet baby on your chest are better than anything I have ever encountered.
I am extremely thankful for both of my birth experiences as there were valuable lessons to be taken from both. I feel that by having the intervention-heavy hospital birth, I can speak from experience in my Birth Boot Camp classes about interventions and their outcomes, the loss of a birth experience, hospital politics, and the effect on a postpartum mother.
The one common thread between both of my births; the one thing that casts an ever so light shadow over my joyous memory of the experiences was my husband’s ability to cope. My husband, to no fault of his own, was a less than helpful birth partner. Watching me cope with overlapping Pitocin-induced contractions and watching as I powered through each surge with a push was too much for him to handle. His anxiety was tangible, especially during my second birth when I was much more aware of what was happening. While I put my all into focusing on my mission, his energy was difficult to ignore. I found myself worrying about and comforting him as I labored through transition and the second phase, which quite honestly is the LAST THING I SHOULD’VE HAD TO DO. In hindsight it makes me a little angry, not at him, but at our poor choice in a birth class. If only Birth Boot Camp had been around back then.
What I love so much about the Birth Boot Camp curriculum is that it genuinely includes partners. A father’s experience of the birth of their child is important, yet it is often forgotten in the birth world. His experience matters too. Empowering fathers so that they feel confident in the way they support their birthing partners should be a priority of every birth class. Sadly, I didn’t realize this until I had a partner that really had no idea how to support me. My husband felt helpless and seeing me in pain only added to his helplessness and anxiety.
My birth and postpartum experiences have already led me on a path to help other mothers have a postpartum experience free from the blues, anxiety and depression. My placenta encapsulation business has been such a blessing and it fills me with gratitude daily. I give mothers a gift, but what they don’t realize is I am truly the one receiving. I am honored to be a part of these women’s stories, even if it is ever so small.
I am ready to grow and make better use of this fire in my belly. I want to spread the word to couples about the benefits and joys of a natural birth and I want to give them the tools they need to be successful. I want my couples to be proud of their experience and I wish for each of them births that are not accompanied by unnecessary emotional baggage and pain. I hope that fathers can be inspired by their partner’s courage and strength and feel calm and at peace knowing that they are capable of providing their birthing partners with whatever they need to feel more comfortable, even if that means to leave them alone.
By educating and informing couples prenatally, they will be confident consumers who can avoid unnecessary and painful interventions during their birth. By attending my Birth Boot Camp class, I want my couples to rise above all the negativity that surrounds birth in our culture and in the media. I want them to take charge of their experience and hopefully, their teamwork during their birth will only strengthen their bond. Because of Birth Boot Camp, I wish the moment they become a family is met with triumph and the sweetness of finally and peacefully looking into those little eyes as the love hormones surge.
I already have the honor of serving postpartum couples and now I am on a journey to help prenatal couples as well. How totally lucky I am.
Birth Boot Camp Instructor