luck has nothing to do with it…

We are not lucky; we are fortunate. There is a difference.

When my husband called his grandmother to announce the birth of our fourth child, he expected to hear excitement and congratulations. There was a bit of that, before she went into a lecture about how lucky we were. If someone was speaking of how fortunate we are to be the parents of four intelligent, beautiful, wonderful children, I would whole-heartedly agree. I feel wonderfully fortunate every day I gaze into their little faces and listen to their new discoveries or feel them snuggled up close for kisses. I wouldn’t trade a day of it. I’m fortunate to have them in my life; there are many people who would love to have a child but for whatever reason can’t.

However, this wasn’t what my grandmother-in-law was referring to. She was stating that we were lucky to have a healthy child…because we chose to have an unassisted birth, just as we have for each of our children. She believed that we were lucky not to have problems because we chose not to go the conventional route of childbirth in the United States – the kind filled with unecessary interventions which cause problems.

There are true needs for help in some births. However, those instances are rare and are not unexpected. There are signs of true impending problems. The majority of problems and difficult births in the US  are actually caused by health professionals.

Prior to starting our family, my husband and I researched. We are researchers, both by nature and profession. We researched and dug through medical journals. We learned everything we could, and then we made the decision that we felt was best for our family: unassisted childbirth.

So while we may be fortunate to have these wonderful little people in our lives, don’t call us lucky just because we made an educated decision about what is best for our children rather than blindly being driven down the managed drama of interventions. Save that discussion for someone who doesn’t know any better. Luck has nothing to do with it.

our fourth birth…

Before going to bed, I had a few thoughts that I should stay up late and finish some projects. The ningling idea that we would have a baby soon was on my mind. However, I reassured myself that I had time to finish those projects. After all, our first three children were born bwtween 40 weeks 4 days and 40 weeks 6 days.

My husband had been home sick for several days. He was planning to have one more day at home to recuperate before heading back to work until the baby came. Being sick, and concerned that he would disrupt the rest of us, he had been sleeping in another room.

Around 1 AM, my husband was getting ready for bed. I asked him how he was feeling and he said he was feeling better. For the next 30 minutes, I found myself in that odd half awake/half dreaming phase. At the end of that, I had a vision of the baby pushing off with its feet and using it’s head as a battering ram to break my waters. That thought brought me fully awake. Again, I told myself that I couldn’t be in labor and decided I should probably go to the bathroom. When I got out of bed, I was leaking fluid. I stopped by to check on my husband and told him what happened but assured him that you can leak amniotic fluid for weeks before going into labor. I began to question my denial when I had to grab a towel with another small gush, but I had yet to have any contractions. With my other children, my water hadn’t broken until I was pushing.

I decided to go finish some things on the computer and then headed back to bed. Around 2 AM, I began having contractions and decided to get up. My children and husband were all sleeping and I thought it best to let them get as much sleep as possible. As the contractions became more intense, I found myself thinking about my husband. With each one, I imagined the way he smelled and felt and the way he tasted when I kissed him. I soaked in a hot bath for a while and then went back to the living room. The contractions would come closer together for a while and then take a break, picking back up where they had left off.

Around 6 AM, I decided I should go ahead and awaken my husband to fill the birth pool. I told him that I was in labor and he told me that he had been dreaming about my mother. They had been downstairs talking and before I came in she told him that he should head back up to help with the kids. It seemed fitting that he should dream of her, but I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t gotten to see her.

My husband pulled out the pool and air compressor as I closed the bedroom door, hoping that the sound of the compressor wouldn’t wake the kids. As we waited for the water to fill, we sat snuggling on the couch. I moaned through the contractions, opening myself and relishing my husband’s touch. At some point I got on my hands and knees while my husband went to go check the water. It wasn’t long before I decided to go to the bathroom and I felt that it was the right place to be. As I was sitting on the toilet, waiting for the water in the pool to be ready, I was slightly concerned that at that rate I might birth the baby on the toilet. I asked my husband to add some cold water to the pool so that it would be cool enough to get in.

I walked down the hallway to the living room and my husband gave me a hand as I climbed into the pool. The water felt wonderful, and I leaned on the side of the pool while on my hands and knees. The water wasn’t that full, but the warmth was comforting. My body started pushing and I felt the baby’s head. My husband called out that the baby was crowning. He swears he only said it once, but I remember hearing it twice and thinking that he needed some type of response. I managed to say, “I know” while thinking that a head being out was much more than crowning, before my body was pushing the rest of the baby out.

I pulled the baby up between my legs and sat back in the pool. My husband asked what the gender was, and I looked to find that we had another daughter. He went to wake up our other children, and our older son (7 1/2) and daughter (5 1/2) came in to meet their new baby sister. Our 2 1/2 year old son was taking a bit longer to wake up and came in a little while later to meet her. We waited to cut the cord until after the placenta came out and the cord had stopped pulsating.

Born on April 14, 2010 at 7:02 AM, our new little daughter had come two weeks earlier than her older siblings. She is a tiny little pixie who measured 20 inches and weighed 7 pounds 12 ounces. I am enjoying her baby sweetness. It’s a little bittersweet to think that she is my last baby, but with our latest addition, our family feels complete. Her middle name is after my mother.

labor support…

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and partners!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we’re writing about how a co-parent has or has not supported us in our dedication to natural parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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My husband and I have a unique relationship, or so it often seems when discussing relationships with others. We met each other the first day of college at an ice cream social. He was 18 1/2 and I had just turned 17. The next day I showed up for band practice to find that he and I would be playing percussion together. And that is how it started. It wasn’t a romantic relationship at first, but one of complete friendship. We quickly became best friends and have stayed that way ever since. While our communication has improved over the years, as I hope it continues to do as we grow in our personhoods, we’ve always been able to go to one another and bounce ideas.

So, when I approached my dear husband one day, long before we were ready to have children, and confidently exclaimed that I wanted to have our children via unassisted childbirth, he looked at me. He didn’t rant, scream, or try to put an antiquated foot down. Instead, he quietly said, “Tell me more.” At that point I began to show him research and talk to him about childbirth in general. The fact that both of us are researchers by heart helped in this matter. When I pulled out notebooks filled with articles from medical journals, showed him websites, and ordered books on the subject for us to read, he listened.

At that point, I can’t say that he was completely comfortable with the idea. However, it wasn’t that he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of unassisted childbirth or my ability to listen to my body and our future children. Childbirth and child rearing were merely out of his realm of experience. They are out of the realm of experience for many young men. He supported me in a way that I will never forget, and one in which every woman deserves.

We’ve spoken with many couples over the years about unassisted childbirth and our experiences with it. In every case, the desire for such a birth has been the woman’s, pulling along a reluctant husband. At these times, or any time that birth comes up with a man who isn’t quite behind his wife, my husband says one phrase, “Be a man.”

By “be a man,” my husband isn’t implying that a man should go off and hunt down a bear with his own two hands. My husband strongly believes, as do I, that a woman needs to be comfortable and supported in order to listen to her body and baby for an optimal birthing outcome. My husband then goes on to say that the husband’s (or partner’s) role in the birth is to do whatever he needs to in order to make certain that the birthing woman has whatever she needs/wants so that she can listen to her body and do what she needs to. Birth is not a spectator sport or a team sport. It is a very primal experience for a woman. Her partner’s role is one of support, whatever it may look like. For me, that means I need time by myself in order to listen. I labor alone, with my husband coming in to see if I need anything.

When we found out we were expecting our first child, my husband was overly excited about both our future child and our birth plans. He happened to mention the word “homebirth” to his parents, although not once did he say anything about our plans for an unassisted birth. We didn’t think much about his casual reference at the time, but it wasn’t long before we thought about it quite a bit, as extended relatives, some of whom we didn’t even know, called us up to confront us, demanded that we change our decision, and attacked us in general. Through all of that, my husband stood firm. He offered to show research and talk through their fears but always ended with the fact that it was our decision to make and really none of their business. He even told his parents that while the baby would be his first priority after it was born, until that time, his wife was the first priority; nothing they could say (or scream) would change the fact that it was his job to support and protect me.

He supported me throughout that first birth and the births of our next two children, just as he will with the upcoming birth of our fourth child. He has listened throughout the years, both before and after we began having children, about many topics: birth, breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, natural products, unschooling, consensual living, vaccinations, and supported the choices we have made, though I may have been the one to do the initial research.

Parenting itself is a labor of love, and I am thrilled to have my best friend as my “labor support” in this most important endeavor.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: