The past few weeks I’ve really been focusing on prepping the house and other areas of my life for baby to come. I’ve assembled all of the materials we need for the home birth, cleaned out our cupboards and closets, taken care of all of my Jenna Cole orders, and yesterday I spent the day cooking four different meals to stock in the freezer for the time when That Husband (who doesn’t cook) will be taking care of me on his own.
Just as important as all of that in my opinion, maybe even more so, has been working to prepare my body and mind for the incredibly taxing experience of giving birth. The first step I took very early in my pregnancy was avoiding horror stories surrounding birth, and working to eliminate fear. I deliberately avoided the scare-tactic infused work known as What Not To Expect, and focused on reading literature written by those who believe that birth is a natural, normal process, my favorite being Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. In conversation I worked to let others know that I was looking forward to my birth and meeting my baby, which usually steered them toward talking about the wonder that is childbirth, not the gruesome experiences. I also worked to understand the physiologic processes that occur in order to give birth, how the muscles contract, the cervix opens, the baby emerges, etc. Knowing why I am feeling the pain and sensations will help me cope with them as they are happening.
Under the direction of my midwife I began inserting evening primose oil capsules into my vagina each night at the 37 week mark, thought by some to help ripen the cervix. Although I haven’t been able to find any studies/proof that show any conclusive evidence that it works, but this was one of those instances where I thought the possible benefits outweighed the cost. If it works, then great! If it doesn’t, at least I have a nice, oily, moisturized va-jay-jay.
One other substance that has been inserted in my vagina on a regular basis? Sperm. Full of prostaglandins and also thought to help ripen the cervix. And that’s all I’ll say about that method.
At the beginning of my pregnancy I had a hard time watching them, but lately I can’t get enough of the online birth videos found all over YouTube. My favorites are those with actual video footage of home or birth center births, but you can also find an abundance of photo slideshows and even a few tv show clips. I think it’s important to seek these things out in order to realize how many different ways women give birth and how they manage the pain. In bed, on the birthing ball, in the water, grunting, groaning, panting, almost silent… Some women even sing! Some of my favorites are:
Warning: Most of these videos are probably considered NSFW and some show babies actually emerging which might be too much for some to handle!
A water birth, beautifully filmed with the Canon 5Dmkii (at least I think it was, maybe the 7d?), featuring a baby born with the cord wrapped around it’s neck and a mother with a really lovely accent.
A birth center birth, with a mom who pushes her baby out while standing up!
The Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices, not technically of “births” per se, but a set of videos I think every single pregnant woman should watch, no matter where she is giving birth or how.
Surprise surprise, I’m also going to link to Kourtney Kardashian’s birth as one of my favorites. Her water breaks and she insists on doing her hair and makeup before she leaves for the hospital. There is no freaking out. She pulls her own baby onto her chest (which, girl who I assume is her sister who makes the comment that pulling your own baby out “is not normal” it TOTALLY is). I think it’s all really beautiful.
And if you are wondering, yes we plan on setting up a camera for the birth. Who knows if I will have time to edit it and put it up anywhere though.
Early in my pregnancy That Husband expressed a strong desire to help me do everything possible to prepare my perineum for birth. I’ve mentioned perineal massage previously, but starting at the 37 week method I started employing a new method, using a German manufactured device called the Epi-No. Several studies have shown this device to be quite effective at preparing the perineum for birth, but the FDA has declined to approve it and so I had to ask a friend in Canada to buy and ship it down to me.
The Epi-No is a rather simple desvice, with a pump on one end and a balloon type device at the other, to be inflated to the desired (read: largest tolerable) size.
Each night I apply a water-based lubricant and insert the balloon halfway into my vagina.
Once the balloon is inserted and inflated I employ three different techniques. The first is a set of kegels, definitely the most effective kegels I’ve ever done as sometimes when I’m trying to do kegels I’m not sure if I’m using the right muscles or not, and the balloon acts a bit like a guide. I’ll also be doing kegels this way after birth to strengthen my pelvic floor and (hopefully) improve continence after the birth. After my kegels I inflate the balloon as large as I can tolerate, working to learn how to relax with a 7 cm object lodged in my birth canal. After a few minutes it’s time for the part I both despise and love. I attempt to leave the balloon as large as possible and push it out, experiencing just a tiny taste of the “ring of fire” that women who’ve been there talk about. The moment right before the balloon emerges completely is terrifying, but as soon as it’s completely out I breathe a huge sigh or relief, and I swear I even experience a teeny tiny rush of oxytocin. Each night that I work with the Epi-No I try to employ different pain coping techniques, varying the songs I listen to while pushing, working to “breathe” it out more than actively pushing (a la hypnobirthing), relaxing my lips by breathing through them like a horse, using the Epi-No while on my back, on my side, on my knees, etc. I’m hoping I’ll be able to latch on to the right environment and techniques for coping with the pain before baby comes!
Though I can certainly never know what birth will be like, or how I will react to the experience, until I actually experience it for myself (in 3 weeks or less!), I can happily say I’m not afraid for baby’s debut to come. Go ahead and start right now contractions (I triple-dog dare you), I’m ready for you.