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Natural Birth, Natural Parenting

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 3, May-June 2002, p. 95

Around Christmas time in 1997, I began not feeling very well. I thought I had a stomach virus. I was queasy and tired all the time. I had no food cravings. In fact, nothing sounded good at all. Pregnancy never crossed my mind and since I'd never had regular periods, nothing seemed abnormal. My doctor had even told us that I would probably have a difficult time conceiving without the use of fertility drugs. After a month of this, my husband gave me a big hug and I pulled back because of very tender breasts. He decided to run a pregnancy test at the hospital where he works as a registered nurse. He came home that day with a pink rose and the news that we were expecting a baby.

After a while I began to get my appetite back, but I wasn't gaining as much weight as our midwife thought I should so we had some extra monitoring in the last trimester and I was on modified bed rest. She said I could swim a few laps or take short walks as long as I took naps and rested. I also had to eat more. All the resting gave me plenty of time to read, and read I did, devouring practically every book in print on natural childbirth.

In addition to reading, we watched a few videos. My husband and I knew all about what happens physically when a woman gives birth. What we learned through reading was that childbirth doesn't have to be painful, and that there were many, many things we could do to prepare ourselves and my body for the beautiful event. We set out to discover the things that help me relax. I created a beautiful tape of my favorite relaxing songs, wrote out many inspiring quotes that gave me strength, assurance, and peace, and practiced yoga poses and relaxation. Every day, I visualized a peaceful, beautiful, natural birth. I spent nearly every day in the pool, which did wonders to prevent swelling and aching. By mid-August I was ready to give birth to our child.

My due date came and went, leaving me feeling anxious. I was tired of hearing people ask, "Are you still pregnant?" My husband, mother, and midwife reassured me that the baby would come when she was ready. Someone suggested eggplant to stimulate labor. We ate lots of eggplant parmesan and baba ghanouj. Another friend told me that watermelon could stimulate labor. Finally, I asked my parents what they did the night I was born and learned that they went to the hardware store.

On the morning of August 19th, my husband woke me before sunrise and said, "Let's get up early, make pancakes, and go swimming." So we did. As we were wading around the pool I began to feel some pleasant twinges in my lower abdomen. As I had done almost every day for two weeks, I said, "Maybe the baby will come today." [my husband] smiled and we swam some more. That afternoon we ate watermelon and went to the hardware store. The twinges continued but were so mild that I sent my husband out with his brother to a movie.

While [my husband] was gone I was in the most blissful, euphoric state. I addressed all the cards to people with birthdays in the next few months, organized my bags for the hospital, and straightened the house. [my husband] came home around 11 pm and we decided to have some ice cream. I took one bite and suddenly felt fluid running down my leg.

I ran to the bathroom trying to decide if my water had broken. When the twinges suddenly got much stronger, we called the midwife, who told me to take a relaxing bath. She said that true labor contractions would not stop in the water, and told me to call her to meet us at the hospital when I felt I couldn't wait any longer. As I "relaxed" in the warm water, [my husband] started to load the car. I had nine pillows, my tapes, my scriptures, special balls to squeeze in my hands, lavender massage oil, wooden massage devices, and a little handkerchief filled with dried lavender blossoms. After only a few minutes, the contractions became very in-tense, though not painful, and we called the midwife and were on our way at around 1:30 am.

Because it was the middle of the night, we entered the hospital through the emergency room doors. I chose to walk to the labor and delivery floor, stopping every few steps while I put my arms around [my husband]'s neck and breathed "in" relaxation, "out" contraction pressure. I also held my handkerchief and breathed the relaxing scent of lavender. Slowly we made our way up two flights of stairs. After an initial fetal monitoring, my contractions became very intense, though still not painful. [Our midwife] came in and helped me out of my prone position to stand up and do a little dance with my hips to help bring the baby down. I was seven centimeters dilated. Next I sat in the whirlpool, sipping juice and looking at relaxing pictures of our honeymoon on the beach until I realized if I didn't get out the baby would be born in the tub, which was against hospital policy. I got out and ran, as well as a laboring woman can, down the hall to our room.

When I couldn't help it any longer I let my body begin pushing. I felt most comfortable on my knees with my hands gripping the top of the bed. I had thought I would want to hold onto [my husband], but at that moment I just wanted him beside me. After about 30 minutes of pushing, I reached down and felt my baby's head. The only pain I experienced was for less than five minutes as she was crowning. A few minutes later, at 4:31 am, [my husband] caught our first baby. He immediately handed her to me. Crying tears of immense joy, I held [my new daughter] in my arms. I offered her my breast and marveled at how her tiny little mouth opened, searching for the nipple. She was born into a dimly lit, quiet room where the voices were never louder than a whisper. She didn't cry and made only a few little whimpers.

I knew I wanted to breastfeed. My midwife had given us additional information about breastfeeding and had suggested we attend a La Leche League meeting. I felt too private about my breasts to consider sitting around with a bunch of women listening to them talk about their breasts! Later I was surprised that my baby's cry of hunger changed my inhibitions about breastfeeding in front of others. I even began to enjoy breastfeeding. But in the beginning it was just feeding, nothing more.

[My baby] developed colic after a few days at home. We were in the process of remodeling a home and moving, and [my husband] was working nights at a new job. I felt isolated and a little depressed. All sorts of parenting advice seemed to come from everywhere. I struggled with advice about schedules, cribs, pacifiers, and more. My husband, mother, and midwife urged me to listen to my heart. We wanted to parent naturally, just as we had given birth naturally. When [my baby] began spitting out milk and crying at the breast, I decided to call La Leche League to see if they had any suggestions.

When I first talked to my local LLL Leader, S, I felt reassured that I was doing a good job at mothering. She read aloud from the Breastfeeding Answer Book about the problems I'd been facing, and she invited me to the next LLL Group meeting. Her warm, sensitive manner was calming.

At the meeting I met other mothers who listened to their hearts and who wanted to parent their children the way I did. I also found a library of books, such as The Fussy Baby and Nighttime Parenting, that gave [my husband] and me so much assurance that what we were doing was okay. Gradually we became very comfortable with having a family bed and feeding [my baby] became a much calmer time.

We now have two beautiful daughters, since the birth of [a second daughter] in 2001. They are both doing well and thriving on their mother's milk. I nursed my babies to provide them with the best possible start in life, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. For us, breastfeeding has become more than a way of feeding. Breastfeeding has become a way of life.

This article has been edited at the author's request.

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