Monday, April 28, 2008

Guest Post #1

This first guest post comes from Sheridan Ripley, a proud VBAC mom of 3 busy boys, Loving Lactivist, Positive Birth Story Collector, Hypnobabies Instructor and Hypno-doula. She has several websites and blogs: Orange County Hypnobabies, Positive Birth Stories, and a Birth Blog.

I invited Sheridan to write a guest post because of some of the comments about LDS birth choices. At least one commenter asserted that TopHat and I were fanatical homebirthers and that we were not practicing what we preach when we chose unassisted births. I assert that, by following spiritual guidance and seeking Priesthood blessings for our pregnancies and births, we were definitely practicing what we preach. Sheridan's birth stories--as different as they are from my own--show how she also followed spiritual promptings.

Each birth is different and unique. Our views of birth change over time and with our experiences. Birth is unpredictable and that is part of its beauty. I have had 3 very different birth experiences. Each taught me something important and each changed me as a women and a mother. I learned that my intuition (or the promptings of the Holy Ghost) is one of my most powerful tools as a mother. This has proven to be true not just during my pregnancy and births, but also as I continue to raise my boys. The first part of my post focuses on my pregnancies and births.

My Births

Devon: I was hoping for a NCB (natural childbirth) with my first baby. I took a Bradley class and things were moving along nicely when suddenly I ended up on bedrest at 25 weeks for pre-term labor (PTL). I wasn’t able to finish my classes, but was still hoping to have a NCB. I ended up changing care providers at 27 weeks because I felt my OB was not listening to me and my concerns. I was in and out of the hospital 7 or 8 times. One day while driving, Rob and I started talking about why I this was happening, and we both felt there was a BIGGER reason than just the PTL. We might never know why, but it was important I was experiencing this. That brought me a lot of comfort, as it was pretty mind-numbing being on bedrest.

I woke up one morning at 34 weeks and noticed the baby wasn’t moving. I knew the importance of being aware of your baby’s movements from a TV show I had watched years ago. (I think this is the reason I was on bedrest; I doubt I would have noticed so fast the decrease in movement if I hadn’t been on bedrest.) I drank some juice and still nothing. I suddenly KNEW in my heart something was wrong with the baby. I really thought I had lost him. I called the OB who had me drink more juice and told me to call back an hour later.

I “obeyed” and after about 30 minutes with still no movement, I woke my husband up (he is a late sleeper) and was crying and told him something was wrong and we were going to the hospital no matter what they said when we called back. We got ready to go, called and they set up an appointment at 1:30 pm for a NST (non-stress test). I still wish I had truly followed my intuition and just gone in right then, but we waited.

My husband gave me a blessing to help calm me down. In it he blessed that Devon would be ok and that he would come when he was ready. As soon as he said he would be ok, I felt a large weight come off of my shoulders. I KNEW that the baby was going to be ok. The blessing brought me a lot of comfort.

We got to the NST place early but had to wait until they got back from lunch. They got me on the monitors; there was his heartbeat, and I thought everything was fine. They used a little noisy vibrator on my belly to try and wake him up. Devon kept on sleeping, but it made me have contractions, which made his heart rate drop. (I didn’t understand the significance of that at the time.) A new nurse came in and said we would be having our baby that day. I thought she was in the wrong room. Quickly it became apparent that there was a problem and it was safer for the baby to be out NOW.

We headed across the street to the hospital. Rob wanted to know if I wanted another blessing. I said I didn’t need one; the first one said he would come when he was ready, so I trusted that he was ready. My NCB dream was shattered. I was thrust into this emergency cesarean situation. I am grateful I was able to have a spinal so I was awake when Devon was born. He was 4 pounds 3 ounces. It was a very surreal and scary situation. I had been lying in bed for 9 weeks so the baby wouldn’t come early, and now I was having a surgery to get him out early.

I got to see him for a few minutes, and then Rob went to the NICU with him. I was left alone in the recovery room in a lot of pain and feeling so empty. It was not the birth I had hoped for, but the farthest thing from it. It took years to really get over it. But I knew it was a life-saving operation for Devon, so I was never angry. I always say that day was the scariest and happiest day of my life.

It is amazing what a mother will do for her child. If I said to you, “will you lie in bed for 9 weeks and then have a major surgery to help somebody you have never met?” odds are you would think I was crazy. But if it was for your baby of course you would.

So from this birth I learned that birth is unpredictable; we can plan for one thing and get something totally different. That there are moments in time that will be seared in our memory. That scary things can be happy things. That with sadness there can be joy. The most important thing I learned is that our intuition can save lives and we must listen to it and follow as we are led.

Carson: I had a lot of baggage from the first pregnancy and birth. I was scared, but I didn’t want fear to motivate me in my choices. My husband had seen a Dateline show on hypnosis and birth and suggested I look into it. I found a HypnoBirthing class an hour away and we took the class. I found it very healing, I was able to let go of my fears about carrying full term and about my ability to have a vaginal birth. I moved forward in this pregnancy with faith in my body. I think that had I not had these tools, I would have remained very fearful of pregnancy and birth, and that would have in turn affected my pregnancy and birth.

I was of course highly aware of Carson’s movements. I chose to have biweekly NSTs from 34 weeks on; they gave me a level of comfort that I needed. My goals for this birth were to go full term, to have a vaginal birth, and to double Devon’s birth weight, so I was shooting for an 8 pound 6 ounce baby. While I knew birth could be unpredictable and of course if an emergency arose I would do whatever needed to be done for my baby, I still wanted to focus on what I WANTED—my ideal birth.

I was pregnant for 42 weeks with Carson, 8 weeks longer than I had been with Devon. After Devon I had said, “I will never complain about getting big or going over.” Well, I had a lot of chances to prove it that was possible. I did get HUGE. I might have complained a bit, but overall I was content. I was hoping to go un-medicated for this birth. But after 14 hours of comfortable labor I lost focus and was having back labor, so at 17 hours I chose to get an epidural. This was the right choice for me at the time and I never regretted getting it.

After 21 hours of birthing time with almost 3 hours of pushing, my 9 pound 4 ounce baby boy was born vaginally. I felt exhausted but thrilled. I had done it! Carson was in my arms and I was so proud. It was a healing birth in so many ways.

Bryson’s pregnancy: I wanted to use hypnosis again, because I knew it could work, but I wanted more tools, so I found Hypnobabies. My main goal for this birth was an un-medicated vaginal birth. I knew I could do it.

At my 33 week appointment I said I wanted to get my NST scheduled. My OB said I didn’t need it; all was well. I wasn’t sure why, but I really insisted I get it scheduled. My intuition said I needed that. I pointed out a weird rash on my leg and my stomach was itchy. She brushed it off and said to go to my primary care physician. This led into the most challenging section of any of my pregnancies. Yes, it was even harder than bedrest!

I had PUPPS, a pregnancy-related rash, which care providers don’t seem informed about or really care about because there is “no medical effect” on mom or baby. Well, let me tell you it rocked my world and stressed me out to no end, and that surely had an effect on my baby. It took prayers, blessings and that NST to help me survive.

Labor Day weekend was coming up and that Friday I went to my first NST. I almost didn’t go because putting clothes on was painful. I knew the baby was ok, so I was tempted not to go. I really felt I should (intuition again). I got there and the nurses saw my belly, which by now was a red inflamed horrific sight. They quickly got the high risk OB, who diagnosed me with one of the worse case of PUPPS he had ever seen. I was thrilled that someone was finally listening to me and caring. He gave some prescriptions.

Now, I typically do not take even a Tylenol when pregnant. Each situation is different and I have learned not to judge others, because, let me tell you, I ran to the pharmacy and slathered that cream on my belly and popped a pill in my mouth. I was at the point where I would have signed up for a repeat cesarean at 37 weeks to make this rash end. Though I have since learned that birth does not always end PUPPS, I have also since learned of more natural remedies that can help PUPPS moms, including acupuncture, which I would certainly try first if I had it again. This is a great example of how limited information affects your choices. The medical establishment has one answer and that is drugs or intervention. When a woman is fearful or uncomfortable she makes that choice, because it seems to be the only one.

That night I had another blessing and continued with my prayers. The medicine helped, I still had PUPPS the rest of my pregnancy. I slept with socks on my hands, so I wouldn’t scratch myself to bleeding while sleeping. I was naked (well, loose PJs, no underwear) for the majority of the days, dressing only when I had to leave the house. But I was able to handle that compared to what it had been. I carried Bryson to 41.5 weeks. I only wish I had taken pictures. I still have scars on my legs. I can only imagine had I not gone to that NST I would have ended up in the ER over Labor Day weekend for a mental breakdown of some sort.

Bryson’s birth itself was the most amazing experience of my life. (You can read the complete story here or see the video here.) I had my husband, a doula, a good hospital with a supportive nurse, and my Hypnobabies tools. I had a completely unmedicated COMFORTABLE birth.

I woke up at 1 in the morning with pressure waves that would shock me out of sleep. I popped in a Hypnobabies CD and was able to “sleep” as long as a CD was on. It kept me aware enough that I could stay relaxed if a pressure wave came and I could stay comfortable. This allowed me to stay well rested. In the morning I just wanted to be left alone, so we got the boys off to school or with friends. I hung out, puttering around, wondering if this was really the day. (I had had days of prodromal labor.)

By 10:30 am I decided this was it. I was settled into my hospital room with my husband and doula by my side by 1 pm. I was comfortable and walking the halls, chatting between pressure waves. At 4:30 pm I choose to have my water broken, as I was still 5cm with a bulging bag of waters (which I had been at noon). Things quickly progressed and I was ready to start pushing around 6:45 pm.

I really loved pushing. I felt like a lion roaring my baby out. It was so powerful and amazing. I was still comfortable. The OB said, “You are going to feel the ring of fire now.” I remember thinking, “I haven’t felt any pain yet; no need to now.” And I bounced her comment right off my bubble of peace. (Hypnobabies tool.) I felt only pressure through the whole birth.

Bryson was in my arms at 6:59 pm, and he didn’t leave them for almost 2 hours. Here is what I wrote about it that night…
That was amazing, beautiful, a miracle. Everything I wanted and more. I feel so empowered that I gave birth, completely un-medicated to a healthy 9 pound baby boy. He came straight from inside me—onto my chest, where he stayed undisturbed for over an hour. The first 20 minutes or so his eyes stayed closed and he just hung out snuggled to my chest. Then he started rooting around. Someone helped me get him latched on—it is funny you forget how to do these things, he has a STRONG suck—he went to town—then slowly he started opening his eyes—looking around at the world—at me, his mom. It was honestly almost surprising to see a BABY laying on me. I actually have another baby of my own. I am so blessed. He looks like his own little person.
Bryson’s birth showed me the power of my mind and the power of my body. It was such an empowering experience. It has changed the way I think about myself and birth. I wish every mom could experience a birth like that.

My thoughts about birth as a spiritual event

Birth is a spiritual event in our lives. (At least it can be.) Pregnancy and Birth are an amazing time where a spirit is making this step of his journey into this mortal world. I know that the Holy Ghost can guide us as we plan our families, comfort us as we deal with losses, warn us if something is wrong, reassure us if all is well.

I think that it is a gift that not enough people use or trust. It can be a HUGE help as we plan our births, it can let us make the best choices for OUR family and THIS birth, even if it is different than what we planned or what we had chosen for our other births. We need to do our research, we need to make our choices, but the spirit can confirm if it is a good choice for us. It isn’t for me to judge what the best choice for others is. I am happy to share information and encouragement, but I will support them in what they chose is best for them. I can’t know what is best for their family, it isn’t my birth, it is their birth!

Birth is a learning event in our lives. (At least it can be) It has taken me 3 births and reading a lot of books to get to the point where I would feel comfortable having a homebirth. This comfort level also has a lot to do with what I have seen as a doula. Watching a birth as an observer rather than the birthing mom is very eye opening. It really shows how a mom in a hospital is just on a conveyor belt of institutionalized care, getting one size fits all care. It is sad and scary to me to see all that goes on in hospitals and how a lot of the routine interventions they do actually cause problems.

I also know that if I were planning a homebirth, but felt the need to switch to a hospital birth, I would follow that impression. I would trust that Heavenly Father would guide me in my next pregnancy and birth as He has guided me through my first three. I would trust that if I listen and respond to the impressions I receive, all would end like it was meant to.

It is important to respect others’ birth choices. The more I learn and have experiences the more I realize it is such an individual thing and all I can do is offer information and support. Three years ago if a friend told me she was planning an unassisted birth, I would have thought something along the lines of "that is crazy." I hope I would have been kind enough to say, "that is your choice and I wish you well." But today I can understand it and respect it. I would probably ask some questions and see what her motivation is. If she isn’t aware of supportive care providers, I would give her some names. Then I would support her in her choice. Since I have had fantasies of having an unplanned unassisted birth in my kitchen…I would probably share that with her. :)

Unassisted birth wouldn’t be my first choice for a future birth. But I know that if I were in a location where I couldn’t find a care provider to support me in a VBAC, I would choose an unassisted birth over a repeat cesarean. It would take a lot of prayer and blessings to be comfortable with that, but I personally couldn’t choose to have an elective cesarean if it was not medically necessary.

In the past I have had the same gut reaction of "that is crazy" to moms telling me they were planning cesareans. But today I ask questions and share information and then support them in their choices. It is such a hot topic and very emotionally charged. I have a whole series of posts on moms choosing cesareans on my blog.

So, this has been a very long post about birth choices and how each and every birth is different. We can learn from our own and from others’ choices. The most important part is that we can receive guidance from our intuition throughout our pregnancy and birth. If we trust birth, trust ourselves and make the best choices we can, the journey will be an empowering one.

Sheridan recommended a few birth stories that show the power of a mother's intuition:

Here is a GREAT birth story about a mom who was planning a home birth and early in her birthing time she knew she needed to go to the hospital.

Another great story, planned homebirth, but mom doesn’t feel right about it when things start, so she goes to the hospital. Turns out baby is breech, but she has a vaginal breech birth, with a doctor who keeps his cool and supports mom in her choice.

FAST planned homebirth story, midwife didn’t have time to get there. There is a scary moment of baby getting stuck, BUT mom listened to her intuition and it ended great.


  1. Beautiful post! I love hearing about how deeply spirituality plays a part in something as important as birthing in people's lives. I am not religious, but I have my own sense of spirituality, and it always fascinates me to hear about other's walks with whatever deity they choose.

    I believe that homebirth is such a wonderful choice for the EXACT REASON that a mother in that situation is more open to her own body's intuition, and is therefore able to sense impending danger in time. A skilled midwife, who sits close with the woman the entire time, is also good at catching things before they become problems.

    In a hospital setting this doesn't happen: mom is either drugged and disconnected with her body, or too busy being distracted by fighting off invasive staff, to really tune in with herself. And when the nurses are bustling in and out of the room for only a few minutes each hour and relying on monitors and machines to tell them what the laboring mom's body is doing, again, it's hard to head off trouble in time. Then out come the interventions, which too often cause even more problems. What a mess! All of which could have been avoided with more personal, gentle care...the kind you get from a homebirth midwife.

    Geez, I'm writing a guest post of my own here. ;) Oops! Let me wrap it up by saying again that it's great to hear about women who were so deeply in tune with themselves that they were able to do what was best for their baby, even though it disagreed with their prior plans. That's the measure of a truly informed woman right there! It's not a black or white situation like so many people would believe - you don't HAVE to have a homebirth at all costs. And that's okay.

  2. What wonderful stories. Thank you for sharing! My first was induced in a hospital, and the turning point, I believe was when my in-laws came in and layed hands on me and prayed for me. My second birth, at home, was amazing. We were able to worship God and pray openly the whole way through. I don't know that I would have been as focused or able to have that experience in the hospital. The first birth I was pretty dependent on what others told me to do, and I did have minor complications (that were easily avoidable, had I listened to myself). THe second birth, I relyed heavily on the Lord's guidance and my own intuition and had no complications!

  3. Thank you, great post. It is wonderful when women are empowered to greet birth as an amazing spiritual, transformative event rather than a horrible nightmare to just get through. Thanks for showing there is a better way... I followed my gut and had an amazing homebirth.

  4. I just found this blog last week and have really enjoyed reading it. I really appreciate how educated and informed you are, Rixa.

    I am actually doing Hypnobabies to prepare for my birth this summer and so am familiar with Sheridan. It was great to hear her stories in this context. I actually didn't know she's LDS. :-) (I am too.) It's wonderful to hear about how we really can utilize the Spirit to help us make decisions about our pregnancy and birth.

    I'm so grateful for the network of women out there educating one another and helping each other make informed decisions. This is my first baby and I will be having it in the hospital. Fortunately, the hospital here is quite open to natural birth and my OB is amazing and open as well. I will most likely have the midwife on call deliver me. If all goes well, I will definitely be considering a birth center or homebirth with my next baby.

    I think the most important thing is not where or how one chooses to birth, but that one makes an informed decision having understood all the options.

  5. "I think the most important thing is not where or how one chooses to birth, but that one makes an informed decision having understood all the options."

    I think this quote, along with this wonderful post, is the essence of what birth is about. I know from my own experience that this is true for me. I had a homebirth with my first that went a little awry because I did not understand what all my options were in my situation, and thus made a very bad decision that made that birth VERY difficult. On the other hand, as I have learned more and become more confident in my own body, I've been able to have two more births that were really wonderful, even though they were in the hospital. I've always been a homebirth advocate, though, because of the opportunity to be so in control of and in tune with your own environment, and that is why I am delighted that this last birth is going to be a homebirth. I feel strongly about having this baby at home, not because I am scared of the hospital, but because I really feel that home is the best environment for me and this baby to meet each other for the first time.

    Birth really is a transformative experience no matter where it occurs, and it doesn't have to be the horrible, terrifying one that so often it is portrayed as. Thank you, Rixa, for bringing this to the forefront over and over, even in the face of intense opposition.

  6. too long!!! i cannot read this! not enough time!
    i wish!

  7. Anonymous, I wasn't able to read it the first time I looked through Rixa's site either, but I made sure to make the time later. It really is an excellent post, and worth the time it takes to read.

  8. Oh I totally had that PUPPS thing too and totally know what she was going through. If I hadn't of been with a midwife I would of screamed INDUCE ME NOW and I am so against that obviously. It's just so hard on you mentally!


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