Posts Tagged ‘birth experience’

Healing from Traumatic Birth

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

The past weekend as I was getting ready to run my first ultra-marathon, I shocked myself by saying to my husband “I feel fortunate to have had JJ’s birth experience; it challenged my mental and physical abilities beyond what any other experience could. And from it I know I am strong and capable. I can access that strength today“. I paused for a moment to realize I had just used the word fortunate to describe the birth of my first son. The birth that for many years left me feeling sad, hurt, angry, defeated, confused, jealous, and insecure. Oddly after the birth of my second son, which many people assumed to be a healing experience, I felt an even deeper pain about my first son’s birth. It was as though I realized to an even greater extent what I missed out on experiencing during JJ’s birth. I carried that pain with me for a long time and sometimes felt ashamed of it. Not ashamed of the experience itself but of the depth of pain I felt from it. Wasn’t I just supposed to be thankful I had a child and that he was healthy (particularly because we had experienced nearly three years of infertility before getting pregnant which added a great deal of guilt to the mix)? That’s what everyone said to ‘comfort’ me. I desperately tried to comfort myself in these words; but by not acknowledging my feelings they seem to grow bigger.

When JJ was nearing four and I was pregnant with my third baby, a dear friend and mentor of mine asked me an important question. Ultimately this simple conversation changed my perception of his birth and helped me to re-frame the experience. She asked, in a gentle, loving, non-judging, openly curious, and genuinely compassionate way, “Do you think you will always feel anger about his birth?”.  My initial and impulsive reply was “Yes, I believe I will. How can I not?”. Although that question stayed with me and I asked it of myself over the next several weeks/months. It helped me realize I had a choice in how I felt about the experience. It also helped me realize that my anger was directed at myself. I was not angry with my midwife or the hospital staff or my husband or anyone else involved in JJ’s birth. I was angry at myself. I needed to forgive myself. And for some reason that can be incredibly tough to do!

Once I started to move away from the medical events of JJ’s birth and really tap into the authentic emotion of it (the emotion I tried to pacify with ‘at least I have a healthy baby’) I began to reflect upon the meaning of his birth in my life. I stopped focusing on what I didn’t get from the experience and started focusing on what I gained from it. This was incredibly freeing because it suddenly opened up so many possibilities to me. And I realized that was true empowerment. We often reserve the word empowerment to describe the beautiful, peaceful, un-medicated births that go 100% according to a birth plan. And I had fallen into that trap; putting birth on a spectrum of empowering to dis-empowering. I no longer subscribe to that linear view of birth. I now realize and appreciate that birth is far too dynamic to regard in such a way.

So my dear JJ, thank you for all you have taught me! The journey to you and the meaning I continually discover from that journey, allows me to find grace and acceptance of myself. And it encourages me to approach new challenges with both humility and courage.  I don’t always find a perfect balance of the two; but their simultaneous existence within carries me through.



Moments after crossing the finish line


How to Create a Birth Plan

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Creating a Birth Plan

Creating a birth plan can be a helpful way to communicate your desires for your birth experience. It can serve as an opportunity to make pro-active and conscious decisions regarding various aspects of childbirth. A birth plan can also help you prepare mentally and emotionally for the birth of your child. The process of creating a birth plan often helps clarify ideas about what you want as a mother and for your baby.

Sharing the birth plan with others allows you to effectively communicate your ideas about birth. Optimally this instills a sense of confidence and empowerment about the journey ahead. Occasionally I hear women become discouraged from writing a birth plan because it may attach them to a certain outcome. What happens if the birth goes differently than I ‘planned’? Perhaps a birth plan should more aptly be named a “statement of birth desires.” I believe a birth plan is simply a tool to cultivate your wishes and desires for your birth. I encourage you, the pregnant woman, to create a birth plan and openly share it with anyone who will be involved in your birth experience.

In writing a birth plan, it may be helpful to organize using the four categories found below. Under each one I provide questions to provoke thought on the topic, as well as, a few example statements that you might see included on a birth plan. Generally a birth plan that is shared with others would be no more than a page in length and written in concise, easy-to-read bullet points. Additionally, it is more helpful to state what you DO want versus what you DON’T want. For example:  Delay cord cutting until it has stopped pulsating instead of don’t immediately cut cord, but it is ok to state a few things you don’t want too. Your birth plan will be unique to you and reflect your thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and desires regarding your birth.

Especially if this is your first birth, know that this is just a very helpful guide to prepare you and those around you as you go through this experience. Labor is an amazing experience and in the process, things may change, your desires may change, and that is OK.


Forget about what you see on TV. Think about how you want YOUR labor experience to occur. This is YOUR body, and YOUR birth experience and who better than YOU to make a plan for it!

Who is with you? What is their role? What is happening in the environment? Are people talking to you, touching you, comforting you? Or are you quietly in your own mental space? What pain management tools are you using? What type of monitoring is being used and what is the frequency of it?

Example statements:

  • Allow labor to begin and proceed spontaneously without augmentation
  • Access to drink and food throughout labor as desired
  • Vaginal exams to be conducted by mother’s request only


What is the role of your care provider as you push? Are they coaching you? Are they observing you? What tools are used to support you during the pushing phase? Who is present? Is someone taking pictures and/or video?

Example statements:

  • Birthing location and position is determined by mother and baby
  • I want to be able to move around and change positions during birthing
  • Father catches baby and immediately places baby on mother’s chest
  • Allow the placenta to be birthed on its own accord without pictocin

Immediate Post-Partum

What do you imagine those first few minutes of baby’s life outside of the womb to be like? Who is handling baby? What is being done to you? What is being done to baby?

Example Statements

  • Perform APGAR test and any similar newborn screens while mother holds baby
  • Baby is first weighed upon request of mother
  • All fluids from birth remain on baby until mother request baby is wiped down

 Post- Partum Mother and Newborn Care

The hours following birth are a sacred bonding time for mother and baby. Regardless of birth circumstance, this bonding time should be well-supported by health care providers. Ideally care providers employ evidence based practices that promote successful breastfeeding.

Example Statements:

  • Baby remains with mother at all times
  • Baby is exclusively breastfed
  • Mother and baby skin- to-skin time is strongly encouraged

An important part of creating a birth plan is having care providers that will support and respect your birth plan. Give a copy of this plan to your care provider. If you are birthing in a hospital, make sure to pack 2 copies in your hospital bag. Give one to the nurse when you check-in and have another with you in your room so that you and your significant other can reference it easily.

Tomorrow’s post will discuss selecting maternal health care partners.

Did you write a birth plan? Was it helpful to your birth experience? What do you feel important to include in a birth plan?