Doctor Dad’s Advice for Fathers & Partners

By Vicki Elson, MA, CCE, CD www.birth-media.com Feel free to make copies and share with credit!

This is all true for helping your mate with labor AND for raising kids:

1.  Patience.

2.  Patience.

3.   Patience.

4.  Good things take time, including having babies and raising children.

5.  Be present – not multitasking – when you’re with your woman and your kids.

6.  Get in touch with your “feminine” side: receptive, soft, nurturing, sensitive, responsive, gentle.  The payoff is HUGE.

7.   You’re The Guy, but sometimes you’ll be “second fiddle” in a more supportive role.  Give it up and get used to it.  You can cook and clean and drive and diaper and organize and help with homework, but you probably can’t breastfeed.  You are VERY important taking care of kids AND their mom.

8.  Get down on the floor and play with the little ones.

9.  Some things need to start early, especially the college fund and the swimming lessons.

10.  “More is caught than taught.”  Show your laboring woman your love by your steady voice and touch.  Show your kids how to apologize, how to be generous, how to work hard, how to take care of yourself by doing those things yourself.

“Doctor Dad” is Barry Elson, MD, an integrative care physician (and retired baby-catcher) in western Massachusetts.  His grateful wife, childbirth educator and filmmaker Vicki Elson, MA, CCE, CD, wrote this stuff down for him.  Their grown kids are two teachers and a medical student.  Their two grandchildren are a ball-player and a bicycle rider.  Find more at www.birth-media.com.   

 

Are We Bonding Yet?

By Vicki Elson, MA, CCE, CD www.birth-media.com Feel free to make copies and share with credit!

Labor pain comes with a gift: the “cocktail of love hormones,” described by Dr. Michel Odent, includes oxytocin, the hormone of labor, lactation, and love, plus an endorphin rush that helps us deal with pain and also gives us a natural high.  It’s like the famous “runner’s high,” that moment after an athlete feels like they’ve “hit the wall,” and then suddenly they’ve got endless energy and they feel wonderful. If we were full of labor endorphins right now, we’d be having such a party.

When the pain of labor stops, the hormones are still there, and we mothers are in the ideal physiological state for falling in love with our newborns.  This bodes well for the continuation of the species.

Not everybody experiences this, but that’s okay.  When my grandpa’s ewes failed to bond well with their new lambs, he had to put them on leashes so they’d stand still and let the babies nurse.  Humans are different.  We can adopt a teenager and bond just as well as if we’d birthed the kid ourselves.  If a mama doesn’t feel an immediate so-in-love feeling with her newborn, she will soon.

Bonding happens through all of our senses, including our sense of smell.  A new baby’s smell is like nectar.  Some parents secretly confess to smelling their kids while they’re sleeping, but it’s not really such a secret — the pleasure in that is a universal human experience.  And our sense of touch is an essential ingredient too.  New research is showing the profound value of skin-to-skin contact at the moment of birth for both mother and baby.  Breastfed babies benefit from enhanced bonding, and their poop smells a whole lot better too.

Dr. Odent notes that love hormones are dampened by labor drugs and anesthesia, and these interventions can also make babies less responsive at birth.  While we can overcome anything on the road to fully loving our children, we have to wonder about the effects of a 75% epidural rate and a 33% cesarean rate on a generation of mothers and babies.

To support optimal bonding, it helps to avoid drugs and surgery unless they’re truly necessary, to make birth a loving event well-supported by friends, family, and/or a doula, to enjoy the miracle of skin-to-skin hugging when that warm, wet, slippery, alive little person first emerges into our hands, and to breastfeed our babies.

Vicki Elson’s film, “Laboring Under An Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing,” features TV character Murphy Brown having a hilarious but less-than-empowered birth.  In a scene that didn’t make it into the film, she’s feeling very unsure about being a good enough mom when at last she is alone with her new baby.  Self-consciously she asks, “Are we bonding yet?”  But soon, she is singing “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman,” and we know that she is starting to fall in love.  www.birth-media.com

 

 

Home Birth: Exaggerating Danger

By Vicki Elson, MA, CCE, CD www.birth-media.com Feel free to make copies and share with credit!
There’s been a lot of press lately about the Australian home birth advocate who suffered a heart attack during labor at home, was rushed to the hospital, and died the next day.  This story is extremely distressing, but there’s no evidence that she took any greater risk than a mother planning a hospital birth – mothers sometimes die in hospitals too. Thankfully, in places where good prenatal care and skilled birth attendants are available, both are rare.
There’s also a statistic circulating about home birth “tripling”the neonatal death rate.  The study cited has been criticized for faulty methodology, and those who quote it have been criticized for putting an inappropriate spin on the data.  Here’s an article by Andrew J. Vickers, PhD, explaining some of the problems: “Home Birth Triples the Neonatal Death Rate:”Attention-Grabbing No Doubt, But Uninformative.”
With skilled care and appropriate backup available, home birth is safer than hospital birth in some ways. Babies are half as likely to be born pre-term or with low birth weight.  There are fewer germs at home, fewer ways to throw a woman off her natural rhythms, and a lot fewer cesareans!  Home birth is not something I preach, but for those who make a responsible, well-researched decision, I think it can be a gift beyond measure, setting the stage for parenthood in a profoundly gentle way.
Parenting decisions are often complicated by the lack of clear “right” answers. All parents should weigh risks and benefits of all the choices they have to make: place of birth, epidural or no, baby vaccine schedules, circumcision, where the kid goes to junior high…Good luck!

What You Really Need To EAT When You’re Pregnant

What You Really Need To EAT When You’re Pregnant

by Vicki Elson, MA, CCE, CD   www.birth-media.com   Feel free to make copies.

Okay, eating when you’re pregnant is a full time job.  It’s a lot of work to choose foods carefully, prepare fresh vegetables, cook fresh meats, fish, brown rice and oatmeal.  But it’s WORTH IT because it will make your life easier in the long run — you’ll feel better, and your child will be healthier.  Ask your doctor/midwife about VITAMINS and about your specific nutritional needs.  If your income is low, use WIC, food stamps, and food banks.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE: Eat a wide variety of REAL food that has been processed as little as possible.  Almost every meal and snack should include some high-quality proteins, fruits and/or veggies, whole grains, and dairy products.  Limit sweets, white bread, fried and greasy foods.  Avoid artificial flavors and colors, soft cheeses, and undercooked/raw meat, fish, and eggs.  Moderate salt is okay.  Living on chips and soda is not.

 

Eat MORE than usual to help your baby grow and keep your energy up – in the second trimester, an extra sandwich and an extra glass of milk each day.  In the third trimester, two extra sandwiches, two milks!

 

Eat BETTER than usual to make sure your baby gets the highest possible quality of nutrients: more whole grains, more organic fruits and vegetables, free-range/organic meats, more low-mercury, high Omega-3 fish (anchovies, herring, salmon, sardines, and trout are all okay for pregnant women up to 12 ounces per week).

 

Eat OFTEN, like three meals and three snacks per day, to help with nausea in the first trimester and heartburn in the third trimester.  Plus, as your growing baby crowds your stomach, you’ll need to eat smaller, more frequent meals.

 

DRINK lots of water to prevent dehydration, prevent constipation, and keep your body’s waste-processing systems working well.  Limit caffeine.  Avoid alcohol and sodas.

 

PROTEIN grows your baby’s brain!  And nerves, blood, muscles, and organs.  And it gives you REAL energy, not the fake energy of sugar or caffeine.   Protein comes from meats, fish, cottage cheese, hard cheese, yogurt, nuts, beans, and seeds.  Here’s a tip: get some high-quality protein powder at the health food store and put it in the blender to make a smoothie with milk or juice and a banana, or add it to baked goods or cereal.  Vegetarians and vegans: do your homework on excellent alternatives to animal products.

 

WHOLE GRAINS like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, or bulgur are better than refined grains like pasta, white bread, crackers, or cookies.  More nutrients, more energy, more fiber!

 

VEGETABLES are full of nutrients that you and your baby need.  Go for dark greens like broccoli, spinach, and collards, plus orange veggies like carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes, and enjoy the delicious variety from asparagus to zucchini!

 

FRUITS like apples, bananas, oranges, berries, melons, papayas, pears, plums, mangoes, guavas, and peaches are rich in fiber, Vitamin C, folate, and potassium.

 

DAIRY products like milk, cheese, and yogurt contain calcium, for baby’s bones and teeth!  Calcium is also in canned fish with bones, dark green leafy veggies, beans, nuts, and seeds.

 

Healthy FATS are important!  GOOD fats: olive, canola, sunflower, peanut, soybean, corn, safflower, coconut, and sesame oils, avocados, nuts and seeds, tofu, soymilk.  BAD fats: high-fat cuts of beef/lamb/pork, chicken skin, cream, butter, palm oil, lard, stick margarine, French fries, fried foods, candy bars, packaged snacks (chips, crackers, microwave popcorn).  Bon appetit!

How To Stay Married/Partnered/In Love

By Vicki Elson, MA, CCE, CD www.birth-media.com Feel free to copy this.

Imagine your perfect mate. The sex appeal of your favorite movie star. The skills of a celebrity chef, an expert massage therapist, a master builder, a sensitive counselor, a professional housecleaner, and an amateur comedian, all rolled into one. The net worth of Oprah. The humility of Gandhi. Throw in your particular cravings – a world-class sailor? a successful activist? a stunt pilot? a cat lover? This perfect person, free of emotional baggage, is utterly devoted to your happiness. Your darling does not snore, and would no sooner leave a wet towel on the floor than fly to the moon.

Mine is named Sven. Sven does not exist. 

My real life-partner, the father of my children, the man I do dishes and pay bills and pull weeds with, is wonderful. But, unlike Sven, he’s allergic to cats, among other things. If I compare him to Sven, I might be disappointed, and he might start comparing me to his own imaginary goddess-wife, whose sparkling charms would outshine mine in a heartbeat.

My grandmother-in-law summed it up thus, in her inimitable Yiddish accent: “Don’t look for poyfect, you won’t find.”

There are exactly three reasons I’m still married to not-Sven (it’s been 28 years) and I plan to stay that way – and by the way, it keeps getting better.

1. I chose a mate with good values and great potential.

2. The grandkids named us “Nermie” and “Derpa,” and it’s impossible not to love someone called “Derpa.”

3. We read one really great book when the going was rough, and it saved us. The book helped us to acknowledge that, like all humans, we were not born with perfect relationship abilities. We came to understand how our parents’ styles of relating to one another are not appropriate for our generation, nor for our own particular quirks. And we learned a whole new set of skills.

The book is called The New Rules of Marriage, by Terrence Real. You could, if you are very wealthy, hire Terry to counsel you himself, and I’m sure it would be worth it. You could, for the cost of ordinary marriage counseling, hire one of his protégés, and it would be wonderful. But he has done such an excellent job of distilling the wisdom of generations of smart, passionate, and enlightened family therapists into one small and reader-friendly book that you might want to start there for fifteen bucks.

Like all self-help books, there’s a wisp of self-promotion, but in this case I think it’s worth promoting. (By the way, I have no connection with Terry Real whatsoever, other than having read his book. I also listened to a recording he made on the same topic, and it was pretty good, but it wasn’t as useful as the book.)

We read the book, my sweetheart and I, and grudgingly realized that we were making all the classic mistakes: trying to change and control one another, “expressing” ourselves in ways that did not serve our love, subtly retaliating for hurts, withdrawing into dissatisfied “acceptance,” and, worst of all, insisting that we were “right” and making that the most important thing.

Well, you can be right, or you can be married.

We are products of our culture, and the culture has been shifting under our feet, faster and faster. Gender roles are shifting. Roles in the family and in the workplace are shifting. Divorce is commonplace, with its attendant economic and childrearing difficulties. If we are to maintain healthy, happy relationships, we have to choose good partners, heal past traumas and addictions, eliminate verbal and physical violence, and learn, as Terry says, “full respect living…assertiveness in a manner that cherishes your partner and helps him [or her] succeed, thereby empowering both of you.”

In my grandparents’ day, women’s “disempowered acquiescence” resulted in scenarios like this…

She (muttering to herself): Darn it, he left a big pile of sticky dishes for me again. Oh well, he makes the money and he doesn’t hit me, so I’ll just wash these.

He (muttering to himself): I wonder why she never wants to make love with me.

In my parents’ day, women discovered “personal empowerment.” But that often came packaged with the mistake of what Terry calls “unbridled self-expression.” Now we had something like this…

She (at top of lungs): You always leave me the sticky dishes, you insensitive jerk! You men are all alike.

He: Like YOU never left a dish in the sink? …or…
He: You’re such a b____! …or…
He: I’m outta here. I can find somebody else. …or…
He: Now just calm down and talk to me when you’re sane.

Now we are less constrained by traditional gender roles, but still not very smart about which is more destructive, “empowerment” or “acceptance.” We need skills.

What might the same scenario look like for sincere people who have read Terry’s book and agreed to abide by some new rules? What if we knew how to be “moderate and respectful, not backing down” as we “stand firm and mean it?” There’s a script that my honey and I have gotten used to, which goes something like this:

Partner #1 (the one who is currently dissatisfied): Take some breaths. Remember that you theoretically love this person. Ask if this is a good time to talk. Say what you noticed. Say what story you told yourself. Say how you made yourself feel. Ask for what you want.

Partner #2: Keep mouth shut. Keep mouth shut. Keep mouth shut. Acknowledge what you feel you can. Learn about your partner with curiosity and cherishing. Apologize if necessary.

My sweetie and I have to admit that this felt annoyingly unnatural and fake at first. Here’s an example…

#1 (taking a couple of deep breaths and trying to remember that s/he supposedly loves #2): Hey honey, I need to check in about something. Is this a good time?

#2: Sure, what’s up?

#1: Well, when I got home from work today I noticed that there were sticky dishes in the sink from this morning.

#2 (listening attentively with mouth CLOSED): Mmm.

#1: The story I told myself was that if I have to spend my life doing your dishes I’ll never have time for the things I care about most. I told myself a story that you have never valued my time, that you think I’m your mother/father/servant, that you’ll always take me for granted, that it was stupid to marry you, and that it’ll only get worse unless I fix you right now.

#2 (listening attentively with mouth still closed): Mmm.

#1: The way I made myself feel was angry, resentful, afraid, and…and…like I wanted to yell and put the dirty dishes under the blankets on your side of the bed.

#2 (listening attentively with mouth spectacularly still closed): Mmm.

#1: What I want is for you to be a little more conscious about your dishes.

#2 (opening mouth at last): I’m really sorry about the dishes. I was in such a rush, and I wasn’t thinking about how sticky they’d get. I can see how that was really annoying.

#1: Thanks for understanding. (They kiss.)

(#2 gets bonus points, and probably even more kisses, if s/he continues thus: I’m sorry I left them and I’m sorry I didn’t clean them up when I got home. I’ll try not to do that again. And I’m glad you did marry me. Thanks for being brave and telling me what was on your mind. I love the image of the dishes in the bed – you’re so creative!)

What did you think of that “the story I told myself” part? We thought it was pretty radical, after a lifetime of “what really happened.” I think there is tremendous benefit in acknowledging that we are always telling ourselves stories and making ourselves feel things, even if we never tell our partners about them, even if we don’t HAVE partners. Stories are stories, not necessarily facts, and understanding that leads to sanity and peace. I think our real selves live quietly in the space between the stories. As the bumper sticker says, “DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK.”

Here’s something even more radical. Terry says: “We are drawn to people whose issues fit perfectly with our own in a way that guarantees a reenactment of the old, familiar struggles we grew up with…the mad, inspired thing about real love is that we all marry our unfinished business…And we think we’re the only ones who do!…You may think that a good relationship doesn’t bring up to the surface every hurt and anger you’ve ever carried inside. But it does. Rule: A good relationship is not one in which the raw parts of ourselves are avoided. A good relationship is one in which they are handled. And a great relationship is one in which they are healed.”

So we chip away, year after year, learning to cop to our stories and cherish each other. I’d be lying if I said that my beloved and I are the world’s experts at Terry’s method. Especially in the early days, we were stuck in what we called Dueling Stories, each of us still insisting that we were the sole owners of objective reality. It was hard for both of us to follow the rules all the time, especially that pesky rule about keeping our mouths shut till it was our turn.

It’s still hard sometimes, but we’re learning that at any moment, either of us can instantly become the “relational hero” who listens well and doesn’t need to be right. The results are refreshing.

When we lose our tempers, we try to remember that once the amygdala (a primitive part of the brain) gets activated and the hot temper overrides the sensible frontal lobes, it takes several minutes just for the brain chemistry to settle back down. We try to take some space when that happens, but not the old way (smug, “mature,” “self-controlled” silence, or slamming doors and driving away much too fast with no indication of when, or if, we might return). We follow Terry’s suggestion for a better way to wait out the amygdala: “responsible leave-taking” is saying where we’re going and when we’ll check back in.

We are committed to the relationship, so we’re each learning to be a little more generous, a little more heroic, and a little less right. It takes work. And the payoff is much more quality, connection, and enjoyment than I ever thought possible.

I’m just scratching the surface here – the book is full of stuff you can use today for any relationship, with your partner or with anybody else. There are chapters on healthy boundaries, healthy self-esteem, and why you have the same fight over and over again. If you read the book and your partner doesn’t, you’ll still be gaining skills and insights to move both of you closer to better communication and probably more satisfying intimacy, and that will blow your partner’s mind.

The Silent Power You Already Have

Presence

by Debbie Hall

excerpted from This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, 2006

Presence is a noun, not a verb; it is a state of being, not doing.

States of being are not highly valued in a culture that places a high priority on doing.  Yet, true presence or ‘being with’ another person carries with it a silent power – to bear witness to a passage, to help carry an emotional burden, or to begin a healing process.

I have not hesitated to be in the presence of others for whom I could ‘do’ nothing.

I am still pulled by the need to do more than be, yet repeatedly struck by the healing power of connection created by being fully there in the quiet understanding of another. 

I believe in the power of presence, and it is not only something we give to others.  It always changes me – and always for the better.

–Debbie Hall, excerpted from

This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, 2006

Take a moment to consider:

  • How does this apply to labor support?
  • To counseling skills?
  • To parenting?
  • To marriage and friendship?

Fear-Busting for Pregnant People

Fear-Busting for Pregnant People
A guide by Vicki Elson, MA, CCE, CD www.birth-media.com Feel free to copy this with credit.

You’re not alone – fear and anxiety are normal and even useful.

Will I be able to handle the pain?

The baby will come out one way or another, no matter how you relate to the pain.  So, by definition, the pain of having a whole little person come out of you is TEMPORARY.  The pain means your body is working.  Unlike other kinds of pain, it comes and goes in waves, and it doesn’t mean you have to FIX anything. 

Vaginal birth requires your cervix to open up (first stage: dilation), which usually feels like an ache low down in your belly that comes and goes in a predictable rhythm.  Your job is to relax as much as you can and let the muscles do their work.  Then your baby moves through the open cervix and down through your pelvic bones and vaginal tissues (second stage: pushing).  Your job then is to use your diaphragm muscles to help the baby move down and out during contractions.  What hurts in first and second stage is the stretching of muscles, bones, and tissues.  (Third stage, the placenta, is easy.)

I’ll just have an epidural.  

After weighing the benefits and risks, you might request drugs or anesthesia.  These can lessen the pain, but you’ll still have to deal with some pain and some hard work.  If you expect painlessness, you’ll probably be disappointed.  The more you can RELAX, the easier it will be, epidural or not, cesarean or not.

All cultures have developed rituals for softening and opening the channel, not fighting all that stretching and pressure.  Many untie knots, open windows, clear pathways.  Many keep the mother upright and moving so gravity can help the baby find its way.  Most surround the mother with reassuring fellow mothers. Some breathe deeply and envision a soft and open vessel.  These practices can all support the hormonal and physiological process.

You do have within you a lot of resources: your ability to soften, open, work with your birth team.  Thoughtful, realistic preparation and loving support can help us women prevent trauma and discover our inner strength, even if the birth is complicated or includes cesarean surgery.  See if the two-minute experiment is useful for you.   

What’s the two-minute experiment?

You don’t have to do this perfectly:  Breathe in all your fear, exploring it, getting to know it, noticing how it feels in your body.  Silently breathe out the word “calm.”  Try that 10 times. Did you notice that you’re still who you are?

Next, try this 10 times: breathe in the word “open,” pretending that both the word and your breath are flowing around the inside surface of your pelvis and birth canal and even your tailbone, and breathe out the idea “soften” everywhere, including your face and shoulders.  Did you like that? 

Every time you think about giving birth, do that!  Or, even simpler, just mentally melt your body like butter in August, and your mind and muscles will follow.  Or take a nice bath.  Or just pretend you’re taking a nice bath.  

Note: If that exercise upset you, you may need to do some healing work about past trauma in that part of your body.  You are not alone!  Sadly, it’s very common.  Seek support!  Read Penny Simkin’s When Survivors Give Birth.  Consider discussing it with your care provider. 

Will the baby and I be okay?

This is the big question, right?  Very, very probably, yes, even if you give birth all alone in a stuck elevator or something.  But nothing in life is guaranteed, and birth does carry some risks.

It’s your RESPONSIBILITY as a parent to know a lot about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and babies.  If nothing else, read Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn cover to cover (there’s Penny Simkin again), or Our Bodies Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth.  Learn about nutrition, pregnancy changes, prenatal care, and normal birth.  Learn to “speak the language” so you can make informed decisions about complications, interventions, options for pain relief, baby tests and medicines. Learn how to care for yourself and your baby in the first weeks.  Then cheer yourself up with this fear-buster: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. 

Learning what can go wrong just makes me more scared!

Those fears have a purpose – they’re trying to get you to do your homework. 

Know this: Complications are rare.  Health care is now able to solve problems that would have been disastrous for our ancestors.  If you have access to good nutrition, clean sanitation, adequate birth control, and well-trained care providers, you can relax a lot, and save your energy for helping to insure that everybody in the world can enjoy the same.

If persistent fears are bugging you, try this: IDENTIFY your fears – name them, examine them.  TALK about them with somebody nonjudgmental and safe.  LEARN all you can about them – that will help you to dispel “fear of the unknown.”  DO all you can to prevent them from coming true.  PLAN how you would cope with trouble and who would help you.  AFFIRM whatever is the opposite of your fear, like “I will give birth in a way that is perfect for me,” “my baby and I are radiant and healthy,” “my body is so strong and flexible,” “I will love my baby and myself no matter what.”

Birth From the Baby’s Point of View

birth from the baby’s point of view
vicki elson 2008

Edgeless space
Sleep, awake, drifting
silence, darkness, warm simplicity

Gradually you become aware of:
movement
muffled sounds
soft edges

Now you’re feeling crowded.
You find the place where your head feels best
You try to stretch out
You react to movements and sounds with movements of your own
You notice slight changes in the light: red, black

You hear the watery sounds of digestion
You feel the rhythms of breathing, walking, making love
You have weight,
and when your universe tilts, you try to get more comfortable. 

You swallow.  You blink.  You pee. 

Your limbs are folded.
You feel your legs and arms against your belly
Your hands find your face.

You recognize voices
Your mom, she talks and sings all the time
Other voices vibrate deeper, softer
other voices higher and faster

Sometimes you feel really squished for a long minute
Sometimes you sleep, soft, soft, soft
Sometimes you feel hyped up
Sometimes things bother you and you get mad and punch
Sometimes you just wish you could find a comfier position
And then you sleep, soft, soft, soft

Now something new is happening. 
Waves of pleasure, hormone hugs,
A chemical conversation.

Now the hugs are a bit much.
Now the hugs are more frequent, and they’re annoying. 
Now they take all of your attention.
You try to stretch.

Underneath it
you have a sense that it will be all right.
Your universe loves you.
But your universe is squeezing too much.
It’s getting kind of scary.

This goes on for so long
that you can’t remember what came before.

Oh!  Squeeze, fight, wiggle, punch, worry.
It stops.  You sleep.

Oh!  Pressed into a little ball, you feel so little.
It stops.  You search for a new position. You find one. 

Oh!  There is nothing but this alarming wish to escape.
It stops.  Exhausted, you conk out.

Oh!  Now, a headache. 
You are vaguely aware of sliding forward
But your head is too squashy to think about it.  

A pause, but the headache stays.
You want to sleep.

Oh, again, there is no escaping this!
Pressure, everywhere, your head hurts.
There is noise, your mom is roaring

You try to move through this tight tunnel.
Like a swimmer pushing off the side of a pool,
You kick both legs out straight.

Oh!  Your head moves forward and you are so startled
That you don’t appreciate that it’s the first time in months
That you’ve been able to straighten your legs.

Oh,  Here’s something new. 
The headache is subsiding,
And you feel something you will later learn to call cold air
On the top of your head.

Oh!  An astonishing shove,
A peculiar movement
Your chin comes up off your chest
Your neck has never done this before

Your whole head is released but cold and airy
Your water world has been left behind
You feel something around your neck
You feel fingers, so different from soft wet walls
You hear sounds so much louder than ever before

Whoa, as in stop stop stop!
Your senses are overwhelmed,

And yet, you’re curious
So you open your eyes and you see
Something neither red nor black

Whoa, as in wow, that’s amazing.

Oh!  All squeezy again!
Your shoulders hurt and then they feel okay
Now the water world is gone altogether
The cold and airy world is your home now

Sound!  Light!  Color!  Skin!
A terrifying feeling of edgelessness and gravity.
And into the very center of it,
The searing of the first breath —

That was too crazy. 
You wait as long as you can
Before the next breath
And you try to keep it small

But it pours into you. 
This is really hard to get used to.
You’re glad you don’t have to master it all at once.
You’re still getting oxygen from your mom.

Oh!  You hear the loudest sound ever!
You wonder if it’s coming from you.
It startles you and so you cry again.

You try an experiment.
You just breathe.

You’re worried about what might happen next.
All this has been so unpredictable, unpleasant, unfamiliar.
You are heavy.  You flail against the new air.

But then something nice happens.
Your skin meets your mom’s skin.
It’s 98.6 and like a waterbed.
A soft soft blanket covers you. 

Here’s another surprise, another nice one –
Your mom smells good. 
You’ve never smelled anything before, and this is okay.

You calm down. 
You are breathing, how new!

Your mom’s voice is familiar but clearer now.
She holds you kind of like when you were inside her.
She likes you and she’s glad you’re here.
Your hormones are having a nice conversation.
The other voices are soft and kind.
You let yourself rest. 

Once you had no desires, no sleeping, no waking, no sound.

Then you were

                                            interested.

Then you wanted only to stretch out.
Then you wanted only to escape.
Then you wanted only to make the suffering stop.
Then you wanted only to feel safe.

Now you want only to merge with your universe again.
Here you are, back in your mom’s embrace.
You let her love wash into your deepest self again.

You let curiosity rest a minute
Before you look around again
And marvel.

The Good News and the Bad News About Giving Birth

Check here for Vicki’s one page guide The Good News and the Bad News About Giving Birth

A Better Birth Plan

A great birth plan isn’t just about what you WANT from your care providers. It’s about what you BRING to your birth.

A birth plan is best used as a tool for COMMUNICATION with your partner and your care providers, well before the baby is due.

And always, you will dance between PREPARING for the birth of your dreams and cultivating ACCEPTANCE of all outcomes.

Birth works best when you can… TRUST your body: do your research and practice your skills. TRUST your care providers: choose them carefully, communicate well.

Step 1. Develop SKILLS you will bring to your birth. How will you work with your body, your baby, and your partner to facilitate the baby’s journey, no matter how the baby is born? (Good skills can improve health and comfort in all situations, from a planned cesarean to a surprise on the bus.)

Step 2. Find out if your care provider already offers a birth planning worksheet.

Step 3. Use books, educators, websites, and other resources to complete the questionnaire “How Do You Feel About…” with your partner.

Step 4. Discuss both your skills and your preferences with your care provider. Discover any discrepancies between your preferences and their care protocols, and communicate prenatally until you have a mutual understanding. Again, the goal is to cultivate a mutually TRUSTING relationship. You may consider changing to a different provider, or you may consider revising your preferences.

Step 5. Write a concise Skills and Preferences note to be attached to your medical record and also kept in your birth bag. It should include what skills you BRING to the birth, what options you PREFER, and a statement of your willingness to ADAPT to changing circumstances.

How Do You Feel About…

  • Prenatal ultrasound
  • Prenatal genetic testing
  • Hospital birth, birth centers, home birth
  • What/who might help you in labor
  • Electronic fetal monitoring
  • Drugs like Pitocin to start or speed up labor
  • IV fluids
  • Vaginal exams in labor
  • Analgesics (drugs for pain) Anesthestics (like epidurals)
  • Moving around in labor
  • Episiotomy
  • Cesarean section
  • Cutting the umbilical cord (when? who?)
  • Skin-to-skin contact right after birth
  • Breastfeeding, bottlefeeding
  • Erythromycin ointment in baby’s eyes
  • Newborn Vitamin K and PKU testing
  • Newborn immunizations
  • Having the baby with you or in the nursery
  • How long to stay in the hospital
  • Circumcision