Birth Without Fear: “I learned I was capable of great things.”

Most mamas will have normal pregnancies and births, but that fact alone doesn’t do enough to ease fears related to childbirth. What does lay fear to rest is knowledge. And while the internet offers a fast, easy way to gather up a lot of information related to birth, it’s also—unfortunately—too often the gateway to a lot more fear! Which is why I’m so appreciative of Birth Without Fear, a blog  and Facebook community where moms-to-be can learn a lot without scaring themselves silly.

The wonder-woman behind BWF is January, a home-schooling mother to five littles age 8 and under. She’s a prolific blogger who shares birth stories and builds women’s confidence for labor. Out here in internet-land, her site is a great place for fear-free learning about birth. January and I swapped a few emails about her blog and her birth experiences. Check out what she has to say about VBACs, women’s responsibility in birth, and transformation, then go check out the Birth Without Fear blog and Facebook page!  Be sure to tell her Mamahhh sent you :-)
xoxox

Jenni

 

Mamahhh: January, Mrs. Birth Without Fear, your blog is a wonderful resource! Your facebook posts are inspiring & you are such a strong-spoken advocate for women in birth. Thank you!! Give us the 2-minutes-til-baby-wakes-up lowdown on how you support women through your blog.

Mrs. BWFMrs. BWF: Wow. Thank you. I started Birth Without Fear as my way to reach women and let them know they have choices! Many women do not even realize they have a choice in how, when, and where they birth. I find that sad and frustrating. I use our Facebook page and the BWF Blog to share information, discuss hot topics, and share birth stories of all kinds. While I lean toward natural birth, I work hard to support all women in having an empowering birth no matter what that means to them. (I answered that in between homeschool lessons!)

Mamahhh: Right on! Mamahhh and BWF share a passion for birth stories in general and specifically for birth as a transformative experience for women. For you personally, what about birth changed you?

Mrs. BWF: After I had my first child, a little girl, it wasn’t just about me anymore. Now, all the choices I made would affect her as well. I let go of unhealthy relationships and started working toward a good future for myself and my family. With each birth, I learned more about myself—about cycles I go through, past experiences, fears, and traumas that affected my births. Birth forced me to work through things I would not have otherwise. I grew from each experience and made different choices from what I had learned.

I learned that I was capable of great things. That I could get through anything and accomplish what I put my mind to. That I really am an amazing woman. I started to realize life is a journey, and birth/motherhood gave me stepping stones along the journey to learn and grow and do better. I feel all women should have the opportunity to feel this way through empowering childbirth.

Mrs. BWF mama-love

Mamahhh: I know just what you mean about realizing how amazing you are once you’ve given birth! Go a little deeper with that, giving us some insight into your transition from woman to mother: You experienced trauma and fear when you gave birth. How did that affect who you became as a mother?

Mrs. BWF: My first birth was a Cesarean due to breech. My second was a home birth transfer that led to a repeat Cesarean, and my third was a VBA2C (vaginal birth after two Cesareans) in the hospital that was, in the end, traumatic.

Once I was able to reflect upon why my births went the way they did, I was able to be honest with myself about my fears—letting go of control, trusting in my instincts and my body, and not letting past experiences come into my labor and birth—and what was causing my hang-ups in birth.

After my two Cesareans, that meant finding good support, but also really putting the responsibility on me.

Mamahhh: It is a lot of responsibility to prepare for a VBAC, let alone a VBA2C! What did you do to get ready for that experience?

MRS. BWF: Finding good support for a VBA2C is not easy. I called at least 20 midwives and a few OBs, many who told me they could not or would not support me. One midwife told me not to even try or bother. My husband was my champion. He always believed I could do it and supported me through every aspect of preparation, labor, and birth.

Mamahhh: I’d say both you and your husband were quite the champs! Especially considering that, in pregnancy, the idea of taking on more responsibility for just about anything can seem totally overwhelming. Would you talk about that a little more, because I know you’re not saying ‘If you have a “bad” birth, you really screwed something up.’ You’re talking about educating yourself and informing yourself about your choices, right?

Confidently Mrs. BWFMRS. BWF: When I say put responsibility on myself, I mean that I am in charge of who I have at my birth, how healthy I am mentally and physically, and I can make informed choices.

No, we can not control others in a situation. Unfortunately there are nurses, midwives, and OBs who are not knowledgeable, or will take advantage and even cause trauma in birth. When I say responsibility, what I mean is instead of taking the blame of the role others played in my traumatic births, I learned from them and made better choices for my next birth. I can only control me, so I changed what I could.

As birthing women, we do have a responsibility to prepare for birth. Hiring an OB or midwife and putting it all on them is just not fair or reasonable. They can not birth for us.

Mamahhh: Amen, hallelujah, yes, yes, yes!

Mrs. BWF: After I had a successful VBA2C, but was not happy with how I was treated, I again reflected, and then took responsibility by making the necessary changes for my next birth. That led me to a beautiful, peaceful, healing unassisted home birth. It was a painless labor with an intense transition. It was the most amazing experience of my life (and my husband’s). It required a lot of faith, research, responsibility, and no fear.

Mamahhh: Your experience sounds amazing, but I admit, the idea of unassisted birth is really edgy for me. What kind of research did you do for that; what books helped you prepare?

MRS. BWF: There was a lot of preparation that went into our unassisted birth, and I shared a lot about that in this BWF post. For birth in general, I read any book I could get my hands on, and I read hundreds of birth stories. The two books that helped me the most before having my first UBA2C were Hypnobirthing, the Mongan Method and Birthing From Within.  I truly let go of all my fears with the help of those two books.

I also read all kinds of birth stories. Of course the positive ones pumped me up and made me excited to birth, but I also read ones that had emergencies, transfers, not ideal outcomes, et cetera. They did not scare me though. I learned from them. I learned what to prepare for, what to be ready for, what to do differently. I learned from these courageous women’s experiences! Women learning from women. It’s an amazing thing.

Mamahhh: We are good teachers, aren’t we?! :-) Part of your responsibility pledge included your health. But you did more than just the sort of usual ‘eat healthy and get some exercise.’

MRS. BWF: I changed my diet completely and walked 6 days a week, losing weight and gaining health. I worked my mind and body into shape. I lost a total of 95 pounds.

Mamahhh: That is remarkable! Did that extensive preparation for your first UBA2C carry over into your fifth birth?

MRS. BWF: My fifth birth was another unassisted birth, but one that was very, very difficult.

Mamahhh: You felt prepared, but what was different?

MRS. BWF: I went through a very hard year. That meant I was not as prepared as I would have liked to have been. With four young kids, moving a lot, and other stressors, it just wasn’t possible or ideal. My son’s birth was difficult because of his position. I had a lot of prodromal labor  (for weeks, with increasing intensity by the day), hours of what felt like active labor, then a stall in my actual labor. It was very long, very painful, and I was so glad when it was done. But, he was born, healthy and safe, into his father’s waiting hands at 43 weeks, 3 days and came out facing my left thigh with the cord wrapped around his ankle twice. Babies still come out!

I truly feel my other birth experiences prepared me greatly to have been able to birth that baby like that at home. It has taken me the last 10 months to process this birth and I plan on finally writing up his birth story and sharing it on his 1 year birthday.

Through all of my experiences of birth and motherhood, the common theme is growth, responsibility, faith and confidence. That is what I’ve gained from birth. That is how it changes me.

Mamahhh: Thank you for sharing so much of your personal experience. That is so helpful and generous for expectant mothers. Will you walk us through some highlights from your blog, too? Speaking of your son’s birth story—we’ll be watching for that one!—I love love love the birth stories you post! Which is your favorite & why?

MRS. BWF: Oh wow. I don’t know that I can pick one. I’ll give you 3 of my favorites, but know there are more! I truly feel each and every birth story sent to me is special.

First is Zhandra’s Teen Birth. I love her confidence in her body and the amazing support she had during pregnancy, labor, and birth.

Second is Becka’s story. Her best friend photographed and wrote the story. The amount of love and support at her birth was amazing. Also, her midwife jumping in the birth tub with her made me smile.

Third, off the top of my head would be Anne’s birth story. Her determination and lighthearted attitude during hours of pushing and a transport that ended in a forceps-assisted birth amazed me.

Mamahhh:. You’ve been blogging at Birth Without Fear for just a little over a year. You’ve posted 230 times, with over 150,000 visits a month. Talk about productive! Point us in the direction of a few must-read posts:

MRS. BWF: Gladly! There are many misconceptions about due dates. ACOG states a woman is not post dates until after 42 weeks. There are also different ways to calculate a due date, and for those and more information about how the due date came to be you can visit this post.

Another one of my favorites is 15 Helpful Tips for a Cesarean Birth; for a mom who needs a Cesarean-section, it can still be a good experience!

For more great posts, check out our Top Ten posts from the first year of the BWF Blog!

Mamahhh: January, thank you. I so appreciate what you do for women! Thanks for being an advocate for women’s choice and education in childbirth!

MRS. BWF: Thank you Jenni! I appreciate your support and it’s fun to talk about this outside of the BWF Blog.

 

Photos courtesy and property of Birth Without Fear. Please don’t take them.

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