|Beverly Randolph Meaux: Create Your Destiny. Create Your Birth Experience.
Graphic of Pregnant Woman Courtesy of:
|Like a flower blooming, I lay in the woods with tall, skinny trees all around me. The sun peaks through as the leaves slowly fall. I am giving birth.
That's where I was -- mentally, at least -- when my son sprouted into the world. With two miscarriages and a trying Lamaze labor behind me, I wanted to find a better connection to bringing my baby into this world. After watching a television network show segment on hypnobirthing, I did. It was wonderful. Although I'm not planning to have more children, I wouldn't mind going into labor again.
Weird to say, huh? But true. After all we go through to get pregnant, why must we be terrified of the 'pain' called giving birth -- the thing we want most?
When I became pregnant with my son, I began reliving the Lamaze birth of my first child, then 12 months old. I went to a Lamaze class sponsored by the local hospital. There were about 12 couples in the class. Within 30 minutes of the first session the instructor deflated all my optimism of a nice, smooth labor. She commented that approximately half of the moms-to-be would have a cesarean birth. The other half would need an epidural to make it through the pain and three will probably wish they had gotten the epidural after they experience the pain of labor naturally. The balance of the first session dealt with how to treat the doctors and nurses fairly and how all that 'lying on the floor with the pillow stuff' is only for the television shows. I walked away from this session more afraid and stressed than when I went in.
Labor. Yikes! How in the world is a five to 11-lb. human being supposed to enter the world through me!
The balance of the Lamaze sessions took us through the stages and faces of labor. The instructor discussed vividly the levels of pain we will experience as we dilate to 10 centimeters and begin to push. She even joked to our husbands/significant others how they should not take anything we do or say seriously at the time, even if we hit or curse. We were given breathing exercises that were supposed to distract us through the pain cycles. Our husbands were to coach us through the breathing steps and keep us focused on the breathing throughout the labor. We were also taught how to push the baby out with long, drawn out breaths.
My husband and I are procrastinators. I started really practicing the techniques about six weeks before the due date. My husband may have reviewed the notes twice before our child decided to come three weeks early. An hour passed by the time I was comfortably in my hospital bed with my husband by my side. It only took five hours before my child was born, but it was horrendous for me. Now, right here, many mothers say 'give me a break it took me 12 hours or days in labor, what are you complaining about!' I understand completely, but pain is pain.
I tried the Lamaze breathing and blowing, but all I felt was pain and more pain. My husband was coaching nicely, but he almost passed out because he was blowing out and never took a deep breath in. The nurse came in to check if I was okay and my husband panting and sweating with his shirt off, reached out to her and said 'I need some water quick; this is hard.' I just looked at him with the most piercing eyes.
During the next couple of hours I moved to every position in the bed, holding the handrail, squeezing my husband, bending, leaning, everything you can imagine. For a while, we were in chairs facing each other with my legs wrapped around his waist. Every time a contraction came, I squeezed the life out of his stomach. I even began to ask him to squeeze my legs hard so I would focus on different pain. I finally requested epidural. It was scary because the anesthesiologist kept telling me to keep still or he may hit the wrong thing and I could become paralyzed. Well, if I could keep calm and still through a contraction, I wouldn't need the epidural.
Right! After a 10-minute break it was time to push and I wanted the epidural stopped. It was hard and tiring to push when I couldn't truly feel the contractions. My child was soon born and I was wiped out.
Twelve months later, I begin to think about labor again. I was four months pregnant and apprehensive when I thought back to my first child's birth. While I never remembered the actual pain I did remember it was the most painful thing in my life. I then saw a segment on another birthing technique called hypnobirthing or relaxation. If you don't think you can bring yourself to believe giving birth doesn't have to be painful, take this simple test before reading on.
Hold both arms straight out, parallel to the floor. Imagine there is a string tied to each wrist. Hanging from your right wrist is a brick. How does your right arm feel? Think about it. Close your eyes for a moment and really imagine the brick dangling from your arm. Now, look at your left arm, there's a balloon tied to it. How does your left arm feel? Close your eyes again and think about what's hanging from each arm. Did your arms feel different? If you can answer, yes, you can have a non-painful birthing experience. Why? Look at how your mind just got you to feel weight on your right arm and weightlessness on your left arm when there's nothing really there.
Lamaze and relaxation techniques can be thought of in the same way. Lamaze teaches you how to handle pain through labor. Relaxation teaches you how to enjoy the naturalness of your body in motion through a birth experience. With Lamaze, I walked into the delivery room uncertain how I would handle the pain and torment. My body was tense and stressed, deep down I knew I was scared.
My relaxation sessions were completely opposite from the Lamaze sessions. My husband and I had one instructor to us. The first session was filled with giving us background on how relaxation is used in many fields and understanding who we were as people. After 10 years of being together, my husband and I learned new things about each other. Our instructor told us each person has a place of peace. Something she can think about and it automatically relaxes her. When I really want to relax and let things go, I find myself in a beautiful forest, lying on a thick bed of grass, flowers, and leaves. I'm just looking up peaking through the tall trees, watching out for the sun, listening to the birds and other animals, and thinking of nothing.
My instructor said that was my birthing place. When the opening or surges starts notice, I didn't say contractions - I am to close my eyes and imagine myself lying in my forest. She also said never to think of giving birth as labor. Labor is a strong word, a word that connotes hard work. Think of it as allowing your body to do what it was created to do, to bring life into this world. Think of this as your unique opportunity to help your body birth your baby.
The rest of the relaxation sessions took my husband and me through a different type of breathing technique. Breathing to fill my belly and holding it for longer and longer periods of time, letting the air out slower and slower. I learned how to displace discomfort ? notice, again, I didn't say pain - and relax. I imagined birthing as a flower slowly opening, petal by petal. I imagined my uterus like a shoe completely laced up and the laces were slowing opening, being untied one by one. I was taught how to listen to my body because it will know how to birth our baby.
My husband was taught different methods to relax me. He learned this beautiful calming technique; brushing up and down the inside of my arm slightly and focusing me back to relaxation. We were taught different positions and he was taught how to lead me into them. His role was to lead me when I wanted to be led, follow me when I needed him to follow, and entertain me when I needed to be distracted.
The instructor also gave us readings that helped to keep me in my relax state and showed me how to find a focus point. I choose to have the readings on tape so my husband wouldn't get bored repeating the same thing. The readings basically focus your mind to relax deeper and for longer periods of time based on the length of the surges. To do this, I needed a focus point, something that would signal me to begin thinking of myself lying in the forest. My focus point was a candle. Every time a surge came, I would look over to the candle, turn on the tape, and begin to imagine the forest. It worked and I didn't even have to practice to hard.
My second child was six weeks early, weighed 6 lbs. 14 oz. Because your body is relaxed you're suppose to be able to shave off some time from your previous experiences; my entire experience was only three hours, two hours shorter than the first. It was beautiful.
My doctor had to scramble when it was time to push because no one believed I had completely dilated. The nurses kept saying I must have been dilating slowly because I'm not showing pain yet. They didn't even want to check to see how far along I was because they knew it couldn't be that far along without pain. My husband was bored because in between the taped readings, I would carry on a normal conversation and as he says it, 'bark orders.'
I didn't want to do the relaxation stuff after about 90 minutes, though, and began to feel some pain. The nurses checked and found I was a seven centimeters. I began to ask for epidural, but the doctor and my husband said remember my goal. I did. About 20 minutes passed and I was ready to push to my doctor's surprise. I kept telling them I'm completely dilated but no one would believe me. Fifteen or so minutes later, my husband forced them to check me and they saw my child's head crowning. They rushed everything in and finally gave me the word to push. Just one push and the head was out. The doctor situated the shoulders and said 'push.' I did one more push and our baby was born.
It was amazing. I actually relaxed and listened to my body. I felt my uterus moving, opening. I felt the tingles and changes. In astonishment at what I was able to feel and experience, I think I could even feel my child move into position.
Our preconceived notions and thoughts about a situation play strongly into how we react. I never truly believed this until I experienced the difference between Lamaze and relaxation birthing. Before you give birth, explore all your options. Believe me, when I get stressed at work or home, I close my eyes, lie in the grass and let the rays of sun in.
Beverly R. Meaux is a communications manager at a Fortune 500 company and mother to two children, one- and three-years old. After over a decade focused mostly in the working world, she has spanned her concentration to all her many roles as community supporter, wife, mother, manager, daughter, sister, and friend. She's very active in the church and writes from the heart whenever she can. To respond to her article contact firstname.lastname@example.org.