[This article appeared in the Spring 2010 Edition of PLAYGROUND Magazine.]
10 Centimeters: Exploring the Sacred Art of Giving Birth
Written by Julie Norris | Photos by Cristy Nielsen
Ten centimeters — the golden labor measurement. Being informed and believing in your body’s natural ability are the first steps toward exploring the many approaches that offer a kind and gentle experience into motherhood. Documentaries such as Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born and the almost unbelievable Orgasmic Birth have left many women questioning the status quo and pressing for more information on the nature of giving birth. We’re lucky to live in an area with a full spectrum of well-established care options and an advocacy community for some of the lesser-known alternatives. Here’s a local guide to empower you to choose the best path to get you to your 10 centimeters.
Great births occur in a safe and supportive environment where a woman can relax, release and o-p-e-n to full dilation. Familiar objects, low lights, privacy, mood music, unrestricted movement, a warm bath and a supportive connection with those in the room often allow a woman to progress easier. Select a location for your birth with as much care as you would for your wedding ceremony. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for you and your baby.
AT-HOME BIRTH: Born at home, on purpose, blissfully. You can do that? You betcha. According to British and Canadian medical journals, natural, midwife-attended births are just as safe as, or safer than, hospital births for similar low-risk women, with far fewer severe tears, less post-partum hemorrhage and fewer health problems for the mother, and fewer incidents of birth trauma, meconium aspiration and need for resuscitation of baby. Often choosing a home birth equates with not meeting with your OBGYN. Instead, interview midwives to handle your prenatal care. Get recommendations from members of the Central Florida Birth Network (www.centralfloridabirthnetwork.com). Read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth to get familiar with midwifery care. While midwives will only agree to deliver your baby if you are deemed low-risk, they also are trained professionals who know how to resuscitate a baby, and they come prepared with medical gear and medication to stem hemorrhage. They also have relationships with area hospitals. Should a need to transfer arise, the operating room is prepped while you are being transported to the hospital.
HOSPITAL BIRTH: The perfect place to be for high-risk moms or babies and those who can’t shake the “what if” thoughts. Central Florida hospitals are in a very real competition to make hospital guests as comfy as possible. Winnie Palmer’s five-star concierge program offers cool things for new mommies, such as upgraded in-room amenities, celebratory gourmet dinners, and in-room spa services for post-partum patients. Florida Hospital will open the new Dr. P. Phillips Baby Place on Mother’s Day. The Mediterranean-inspired facility is designed to evoke coziness with new labor and delivery rooms, warm color schemes and posh amenities like upgraded linens, plush towels and complimentary massages for the dads. If you prefer the on-site emergency medical and nursing staff at a hospital, you can still try to make the environment as comforting as possible. Check with each hospital on whether it allows the following: food and beverage, photography and videography, the ability to move about and change positions, birthing tubs and stools, mandatory IV, machine monitoring, aromatherapy, and the ability to play music or dim lights.
BIRTHING CENTER: Nice and clean, “homey” atmosphere, whirlpool tubs, no cleanup afterward — a home away from home. Your prenatal care is usually done in the same facility, so you are familiar with both the people and the place. Central Florida is home to several birthing center options. Two popular birthing centers are Heart 2 Heart (www.h2hbirthcenter.com) in Sanford and The Birth Place (www.thebirthplace.org), with two locations, in Winter Garden and Pine Hills.
BEACHLINE EXPRESSWAY: Maria Hinshaw gave birth to her beautiful baby girl, Pamela, on 408 near the I-4 interchange on March 11, 2008. Although this was not planned, all were healthy. We’re just trying to make the point that really, you are perfectly capable of having your baby anywhere. Women’s bodies are created to give birth.
Lamaze was all the rage in the ’80s; the Bradley Method was the thing in the ’90s. Welcome to the 21st century. The following methodologies can all be used in any setting, including the hospital, and are highly complementary to one another. Several can be used at once as an integrated approach to birthing.
BIRTHING FROM WITHIN: Classes prepare you to “birth in awareness” no matter what your birth location. You’ll experience a variety of pain-coping techniques, which will help you cultivate the power of mindfulness and meditation. In addition to visualizations and learning practices from wisdom traditions, you’ll also explore the wise use of drugs and epidurals, should they become necessary. Practitioner-led classes: www.birthingfromwithin.com
HYPNOSIS: Many women have been successful in self-hypnosis during labor to relax the body and mind and eliminate fear using post-hypnotic suggestions. Training and preparation are the keys to achieving this state of relaxation. Maggie McCarthy offers group or private classes (www.gentlehealingtouch.com). Home study courses are also available at http://www.hypnobabies.com. Also, visit www.hypnobirthing.com for practitioner-led hypnosis.
ORGASMIC BIRTHING: Yes, that’s right — we’re talking about “the big O.” We’re not taught to consider the birthing process to be pleasurable; however, the experts at Orgasmic Birth offer Orgasmic Birth: Your Guild to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience. This school of thought demonstrates the sensual, passionate and ecstatic side of birth, exploring the connection between the natural flow of hormones, with an emphasis on sacred setting so your body can easily do what it already knows how to do innately. Spontaneous orgasms do occur for some women during their birthing time.www.orgasmicbirth.com
PAINLESS CHILDBIRTH: Some lucky women actually deliver babies with NO pain! Don’t you want to be one of them? This strategy helps you prepare for a painless, joyful and sacred birthing experience, with tools to manage your labor contractions. Learn how to connect with your unborn child, and remove your fears and anxiety about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting with a month-by-month guide through each stage of pregnancy. Book, workbook and CDs:www.joyinbirthing.com/painless
WATER BIRTH: The practice of laboring and delivering in warm water. A very safe practice that reduces tension and pain and allows for a very gentle entry for baby. If you’re at home, this can be done in a bathtub or a special birthing tub set up for the occasion. Most birthing centers have whirlpool tubs installed in birthing rooms. Generally, midwives allow the baby to be delivered in the water; check with yours if this is the route you plan to take. www.waterbirth.org
MIDWIFE: Midwives are professionally trained with very strict license requirements in Florida. They can perform all the necessary physical assessments and tests, but take an all-encompassing approach, supporting the parent-to-be’s emotions as a cornerstone of care. While midwives can attend hospital births in the Sunshine State, very few in Central Florida will, since they have their own practice, attending to births at home or a birthing center. Maternity insurance policies in Florida are required to cover midwife-attended births, and Medicaid covers this type of care as well. For the uninsured or those who have no midwife in their network, the cost starts at around $4,000 for a home birth or $8,000 at a birthing center. Find a Midwife: www.flmidwifery.org
The Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand have the best birth outcome statistics in the world — and use midwives as their main maternity care providers. *
DOULA: A doula is a trained, experienced professional who cares for a mother before, during and after a birth, supporting the birthing mother as appropriate physically, emotionally and practically. Doulas do not perform any medical procedures or replace the father’s support. Rather, they add an experienced perspective and nurturing in a way only a woman can. Doulas act as a resource for objective information so parents can make informed decisions about their birth plans. Most importantly, doulas understand the journey to motherhood, the birth process itself and the bonding process with baby. A doula’s support is critical when under the care of a physician. Doulas will support laboring mothers at home, in a birthing center or in a hospital. They are not covered under insurance. Prices vary widely, starting at $400, depending on services offered. It’s critical that you interview until you find one with whom you connect. Find a doula: www.dona.org
She Did It!
You may recognize the Girls Gone Green natural mama, Julie Norris, from our Fall 2009 issue. She had a blissful at-home birth in College Park — submerged in water, using hypnosis relaxation techniques under the expert care of Certified Professional Midwife Kelli Johnson of Winter Springs. Julie has emerged from her ecstatic birth of Maya Juniper Rose on August 24 and deeply desires that more women have access to the wisdom that helped her release fear and embrace birth. Read her birth story, complete with an inspiring slide show of the entire birth for those who need to see it, to believe it, at www.gaiamama.wordpress.com.