Giving birth is another elimination process

It feels so much better when it's all done.

It feels so much better when it’s all done.

Why do I say that birth is an elimination process? Something large is within a body cavity and it must come out. When it’s time, it will come out. It will come out no matter where you are, no matter how smart/dumb you are, no matter if you want it to or not. Even if you want to call the whole thing off and come back to it another day, it will still come out. You’ll be very uncomfortable when the body messages say “It’s time“. You’ll get the right information from the messages of that discomfort and you’ll know exactly what to do. When you’re done, you’ll feel a lot better!

(Now, go back and read what I’ve said and apply it to vomiting, pee-ing, poop-ing or birthing and see how it fits.)

Facebook favourite Updates

I’ve been on Facebook for five years, apparently. These are the most popular updates that I’ve posted there:

They are not “unvaccinated”. . . they have a natural immune system. Women are not “unmastectomized” . . .they have their breasts. Boys are not “uncircumcised”, they are intact. Every word creates a hallucination. When we hallucinate wholeness, wholeness will show up as normal.

Gloria Lemay

October 2013 393 likes

What do I want for my birthday? I want everyone who reads this to take 30 seconds to get up, walk through your place and turn off any lights or appliances that don’t need to be on, OFF. We make the difference in having our Mother Earth work. Thank you.

Gloria Lemay

October 2012 270 likes

If you’re hiring a doula to “enforce your birth plan”, “keep you home as long as possible”, and “protect you”, wake up and plan a home birth with an attendant you trust.

Gloria Lemay

July 2012 359 likes

I don’t know who wrote this but I found it very funny 🙂

If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it will always be yours. If it doesn’t come back, it was never yours to begin with. But, if it just sits in your living room, messes up your stuff, eats your food, uses your telephone, takes your money, and doesn’t appear to realize that you had set it free……. you either married it or gave birth to it.

July 2011 213 likes

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Courage

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courage is a noun meaning ‘ability to overcome fear or despair” The fear has to be present in order for courage to exist. The English word “courage” is derived from the French word for the heart, “cour”. When someone finds the heart to continue on doing the right thing in the face of great fear, everyone around her is inspired to become a nobler human being. This is the source of courage for many midwives. In ourwork, we see women and men facing their fears in birth, we ask them to have faith in the face of no evidence, we demand that they be bigger than the circumstances and, when they conquer, we get a renewed vision of how life can look when our fears don’t stop us.

The paths of parenting and midwifery push me up against my fears and despairing attitude on a daily basis. Luckily, I have found teachers and teachings that have inspired me to keep going despite a rapidly beating hummingbird heart. When my daughters were very young and I was juggling my heart’s desire to be a good parent and make a difference in childbirth, one of my friends told me to use the affirmation “My vulnerability is my strength.” I thought she was insane and argued that if I lived by that slogan my children would surely perish. I was pretty sure that my strength was my strength—and by strength I meant my ability to force and push life to suit my will. I now know that true strength is an elusive quality of being able to strengthen others. At that time, I trusted my friend and, on faith in her alone, began toying with sharing my vulnerability. I tiptoed into revealing my fears and apprehensions to a few “safe” people and slowly began to realize that what my friend had given me as an affirmation worked a lot better than my stoic, stubborn, brave warrior act.

After a few harsh lessons, I began to realize that it wasn’t up to me to conceal information that was worrying me at a birth from the parents. In fact, if I am afraid at a birth, the best thing I can do is name the fear boldly and even ask everyone else present to say what his or her fears are. One of my dear clients released her membranes at 36 weeks in her second pregnancy. Her first birth had been a beautiful, straightforward home birth and I was deeply invested in her second birth being just as great. After four days of leaking, she began having regular, intense birthing sensations and we drove to the hospital for the birth. I drove and the parents were in the back seat of my car. As we approached the hospital, my hands on the wheel were clutched into white knuckles and a ball of fear formed in my gut. I started picturing the cord being whacked off immediately and the baby being taken away from Mom. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the father with his eyes looking terrified. I said to him “What’s your biggest fear right now, Brian?” He replied, “I am afraid we’re going to have a Cesarean.” I never imagined this would be his fear. A cesarean was not even a possibility, I explained, “Your wife is in strong birthing, she has already had one vaginal birth, the baby is small—for sure it will be born vaginally”. He asked me, then, “What are you afraid of?” I told him honestly “ I’m afraid that the baby’s cord will be cut too quickly and the baby will be taken away from Karen.” This had not occurred to him but he knew that my experience was a better barometer of things to come. He asked me what we could do to prevent this. I was able to tell him that it was very important to take the doctor aside out in the hall and tell him “It means everything to my wife and I that the cord be left to pulse and that the baby be placed on her skin until the placenta comes out.” We did a couple of “dress rehearsals” of what had to be said and then went in. The staff at the hospital respected the parents’ wishes to have the cord left intact. The birth went beautifully. I would have wished that the baby didn’t have as heavy doses of antibiotics as he was given (with resulting colic for months) but having a birth that involved no induction or anesthetics was a big accomplishment in these circumstances.

Nancy Wainer, author, midwife

Nancy Wainer, author, midwife


There was a period in my career when I was unable to divest myself of fear and dread. I wanted to have a breakthrough and so I decided to “import” some courage into my city. I thought about my heroes in the midwifery movement and asked myself “Whose the bravest person I know?” The answer was, of course, Nancy Wainer Cohen. Her book “Silent Knife” had kept my feet in the room at VBAC births where every cell in my body had been screaming “What the h— are you doing here?!!” I was pretty sure that if Nancy came and lived at my house for a few days, I could get some courage. My husband picked Nancy up at the airport and she came into my house and hugged me wracking with sobs. She cried her way through several boxes of Kleenex at the workshop she taught for my students. Her visit was four days of snot, tears and intense passion for healing birth. I learned so much about the vulnerability and strength connection. Nancy is still my hero in the courage department and she continues to live her life with her heart pinned right on her sleeve.

The sharing other midwives have done about their fears has strengthened me to face my fears of birth One midwife wrote in Midwifery Today that “the drive to the birth with all the “what ifs” running through my head is the hard part, when I walk through the door and see the woman, all that disappears”. Another midwife told me “The scariest thing for me is the first prenatal class of a series. Meeting new people who have so much riding on my teaching is enough to give me an ulcer.” An acronym for fear is:

F= false
E= evidence
A= appearing
R= real

When I am most afraid, it is because I have forgotten the truth about how loved and blessed I am. The fear can dominate and stop me or it can be used to alert me to something to which I am deeply committed. Using a journal to write out fears in the morning helps to clear the mind. Once the fears are on paper, somehow they seem less foreboding. Being in action is another antidote to the paralysis that accompanies fear. Any action—cleaning your desk, organizing a drawer, making a phone call—will bring a new perspective and lessen the dread.

My favorite philosopher about fear and courage is the Wizard of Oz speaking to the cowardly lion “Courage is doing what’s right even though you’re afraid.” I have learned courage from birthing women and other midwives. We are there to inspire and raise the bar for each other on what’s possible in the domain of courageous action.
This article by Gloria Lemay was written in 2003 and first published in Midwifery Today, Issue 67, Autumn 2003

Birth without borders

I’ve been on a bit of a rant lately about “Keep those damn hats off babies”, “Take off those wet sports bras”, “Get everyone skin-to-skin, dark, private” and I get told that “We have to choose our battles”, “It’s important to meet people where they are and not overwhelm them with picky details”, and other variations of advice to STOP IT!

These things are HUUUUUGE to me. I only want to speak into the ears of those who want perfect births. I had a perfect birth. What is a perfect birth? It’s a birth that you look back on when your child is 30 years old and you wouldn’t change a single thing about it. . . every smell, touch, taste, word spoken and beam of light goes to the grave with you as a top of the mountain of life experience. It’s an experience that makes up for so much of the day to day b.s. that is part of living in a human body. It helps to salve the losses and the heartaches and gives you a glimpse of the bliss that’s possible when all the stars align on a really, really good day. That’s what I want for every birthing woman. When I saw this little video clip (I think it’s from Russia), it made my heart sing as I prayed that no one would enter the frame and interfere with this woman’s bliss (no one does). Unfortunately the sound is missing but I love it that someone turns off the lights so baby could transition to this bright world in a slow way. I also love it that the toddler comes in with questioning eyes to see what the heck is happening in his world and looks to the Dad with questioning eyes and is reassured that “Yes, this is different but it’s all good, sweetie.” I just made that up but I love my own version of things. Enjoy.

Hemorrhoid Treatment

Dear Gloria, I had a great birth with my second baby and didn’t even tear. Next problem, what do I do for a hemorrhoid though? Decent sized one, too. I’ve been putting ice and witch hazel on it. Do you have any tips??

Dear Catherine,
Yes, actually, we’ve just had a big discussion on that subject on the Ancient Art Midwifery list. After you’ve gone pee, got yourself a drink, and have 1/2 hour of “lying on your side nursing the baby” time, get a warm soapy facecloth and towel and get into bed with baby. Then, with just your finger, gently push the bumpy veins inside your bum and clench your bum cheeks tight to keep them in for the 1/2 hour. Clean your hands with the facecloth and dry them and then lie on your side, like that, with babe feeding/cuddling and you clenching tight for 1/2 hour. This allows the veins to be placed where they are supposed to be, reduces the swelling and allows the blood flow to resume properly. You may have to do this more than once but it brings instant relief.

Dear Gloria, Oh that’s great!! Will try this today as it’s the only part of me that’s sore!

I just put the witch hazel on it to reduce the size and did exactly what you said – I already feel better! Now I can enjoy my baby properly! I couldn’t sit at all. . . You have no idea how much you’ve helped me. . . I could burst into tears! Thank you!

Dear Catherine, Glad that helped, you’re welcome. I know you’ll pass the info on to others and help other women recover from birth smoothly. Love Gloria
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2016 Update: Just looking through some old emails and found this comment from a reader about using a tip in the comments of this article:

“An update about my behind… because I’m sure you’re dying to know 😉 The potato poultice that one of your commenters mentioned has been sent down from heaven on the wings of angels. I’m left with some extra ‘skin’ but most of the inflammation and pain is gone. All the blood has drained as well.”

end of quote.
So nice to know that this exchange of info really helps someone who is suffering. Keep the comments coming, please. Gloria

The "Slow Birth" Movement

Somehow, we all got hooked into thinking that “quick was better” when it came to birth. When women tell their birth stories, it seems to be a point of pride to be able to say “I gave birth in 5 hours”, “I barely made it to the hospital”, “even with my first, it was so fast”. We hear these stories and may envy the women thinking that they performed in a fast, efficient manner and we view them as having a coveted talent.

I’ve been observing women giving birth for thirty years and I have given birth three times. From my experience, I don’t think that quick is necessarily a good thing when having a baby. Often fast births afford the woman no time to get her breath and regain her strength. Some women describe their fast births as feeling like they have been whipped around in a blender. In a rapid birth, the woman’s body sometimes displays the symptoms of transition after the birth of the baby (shaking, feeling hot/cold, vomiting). When a baby comes slower, there’s a building up of the intensity of the sensations so that the woman can adjust herself to the process that’s happening and, even though most women would like to shave a few hours off the whole thing, nevertheless, they know they can cope and that they will get to the finish line of birth. When the baby comes slower, the woman often dozes between her pushing sensations and seems to derive a great deal of energy from those short snatches of sleep even though they are interrupted often. The hormones of birth seem to allow the woman to operate in a different domain of sleep, energy and strength. I’m fond of telling women who are tired and discouraged at transition “You’re going to get a big burst of energy when you get the reflex to push” or “you’ll get an energy rush when you feel the baby’s head at your perineum”.

This trust in the process and knowledge that energy can ebb but then be regained in the birth process seems to be greatly lacking in today’s Western obstetrics. Slowing down or taking a long time to dilate is simply viewed as a problem and it’s a problem to be fixed by hurrying the woman’s body along. There’s no such thing as a resting phase, going in and out of the process, or simply a looooonnnnngggggg, slow birth process. This is not allowed and it’s viewed as pathological.
It hasn’t always been that way.

Waiting for the baby

Waiting for the baby

In his book “The Farmer and the Obstetrician”, Michel Odent does a comparison of big agri-business to modern hospital obstetrics. When we see the environmental disaster that large scale agri-corporations have produced and we know that the hospital obstetric system has produced a North America wide cesarean rate of 30% and rising, it’s clear there’s been a severe skewing of priorities and principles. We have to re-order our thinking about farming in order to survive: local organic farms, 100 mile diet, moratoriums on genetically modified crops, co-op gardens, raw diets—all these things have grown in the past few years as the few who knew they were important have held onto the knowledge (and the seeds) for the ones of us who were slow to catch on to the urgency.

Instead of talking about “fast food” that seemed so sensible a while back, we’re talking about slow food. Food that takes time, patience, work and integrity to grow, sow and cook. Some are even talking about “slow money” to fund “slow food”, the kind of financing that doesn’t look for a quick return and a scheme but rather looks to the quality of neighborhoods, children, the air we breathe and the long term future.

For those of us who know there’s something terribly wrong with the state of obstetrics in North America, we must call for a return to SLOW BIRTHING. Birth which understands that some women will wait for several days after releasing their membranes and have no pathology. Slow birth means returning to a time when induction of birth was reserved for very seriously ill women and undertaken with great trepidation. Midwifery would be patient beyond all known limits . . . practitioners only steering the birth process in the most rare cases. We would return to a time when practitioners used to say such expressions as:

“Every birth is different, every woman is different and every baby is different.”
“Don’t let the sun set twice on a woman who is in active labor (past 4 centimeters dilation).”
“Don’t practice “meddlesome midwifery”.”
“A good obstetrician does not pick unripe fruit.”
“A good practitioner has two good hands and knows how to sit on them.”

These are all things I heard when I first started attending births 30 years ago and, now, I never hear them. We must get back to those times when the cesarean rate was below 15% or we will perish. As a society, we cannot withstand the damage that is being done to large numbers of women, babies and their extended families. The idea that we can “turn hospital beds” in order to make maximum use of the dollar cost of that bed is insane when it comes to giving birth.
The notion that a woman can be induced with all the pursuant cascade of interventions simply for the convenience of scheduling staff or room availability is a crime. We must wake up and recognize that giving birth to a baby is one of the most powerful transformative events in a woman’s life. This process is so important to the family and the rest of society that all efforts must be made to have it flow normally. Our priority must be the well being of the newborn baby and the conditions that are favorable to a long, satisfying breastfeeding experience. What we are doing right now with inductions, surgeries and the mass use of narcotics in childbirth is as harmful to the planet as fish farms and DDT. The small band of people who have kept the notion of SLOW BIRTH alive so that society at large can get back to what we know is the holistic way to treat new mothers and babies must be listened to and appropriate action taken. Childbirth is not a frill, it’s not an expendable experience, it’s a fundamental lynch pin in forming the family and, without it, we are doomed to being a sick society.

Insider’s Tip on How to Have a Great VBAC

The following is a post I sent to the ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness
Network) list. It is very, very important information for ALL birthing women
and can make all the difference in a VBAC birth. Read it carefully, copy it,
send it to your clients. One of the ICAN women replies to my post at the
end:

Subject: ICAN: Tip for birth

I wanted to write to those of you who are pregnant to tell you something
that has been running through my mind all day about how you can be
successful with your VBAC births. Many births begin in the night…. woman
will get up to pee, feel her membranes release and then an hour later begin
having sensations fifteen minutes apart. Because we think of birth as a
family/couple experience, most women will wake up their husbands to tell
them something’s starting and then, probably because we all hope we’ll be
the 1 in 10,000 women who don’t experience any pain, we start getting the
birth supplies organized, fill up the water tub, etc. I have seen so many
births that take days and days of prodromal (under 3 cms. dilation)
sensations and they usually begin this way. The couple distracts themselves
in that early critical time when the pituitary gland is beginning to put out
oxytocin to dilate the cervix. Turning on the light, causes inhibition of
the oxytocin release. Many couples don’t call their midwives until they have
sensations coming 5 minutes apart at 7:00 a.m. but they’ve been up since
midnight timing every one of the early sensations. If they had called their
midwife at midnight she would have said “Turn off the light and let your
husband sleep as much as possible through the night. You, stay dark and
quiet. Take a bath with a candle if it helps and call me back when you think
I should come over.”

Secret beginning of birth

Secret beginning of birth

That first night can make all the difference and yet so many couples act
like it’s a party and don’t realize they are sabotaging their births right
at the beginning. Staying up all night in the early part does two things–it
throws off the body clock that controls sleep and waking and confuses the
brain AND it inhibits the release of the very hormone you need to dilate
effectively. You know that it can take days to recover after a night of
partying or after working a graveyard shift. Don’t start your birth with
that kind of stress on your hormone system.

When you begin to have sensations, I urge you to ignore it as long as you
possibly can. Don’t tell anyone. Have a “secret sensation time” with your
unborn baby and get in as dark a space as you can. Minimize what is
happening with your husband, family and the birth attendants. What would you
rather have–a big, long dramatic birth story to tell everyone or a really
smooth birth? You do have a say over your hormone activity. Help your
pituitary gland secrete oxytocin to open your cervix by being in a dark,
quiet room with your eyes closed. Gloria Lemay, Vancouver

Pam wrote:

“I really loved what Gloria had to say here. For me, it’s all about what
went wrong at my first birth (stayed up all night timing
contractions…stupid, stupid, stupid, and was totally wiped out by morning),
and could have been improved at the second, when I lacked a place to stay
dark and quiet. I printed it out for my husband to read, and am putting it in my
file of important things to remember when labor starts, within the next
couple of weeks.”

Helping your client avoid a Gestational Diabetes diagnosis

There is controversy in obstetrics about the diagnosis of gestational diabetes and the testing that is done to ascertain which women are at greatest risk. Dr. Michel Odent has written an article GESTATIONAL DIABETES: A DIAGNOSIS STILL LOOKING FOR A DISEASE? which can be viewed online at http://www.gentlebirth.org/archives/gdmodent.html

Pregnant woman testing blood sugar levels

Pregnant woman testing blood sugar levels

.

Until all the controversy is resolved and a more scientific test can be offered, we are stuck with the glucose tolerance test at 28 weeks gestational age. The mother can look at the list of who is at greatest risk and decide to decline the test if her risk is low.

Women at risk:
– maternal age over 25
– – obese woman prior to pregnancy
– – previous birth of baby weighing over 10# at birth
– – previous unexplained stillbirth at term
– – family history of diabetes (esp. close relatives who became diabetic at a young age
i.e. juvenile onset diabetes)
–previous history of recurrent miscarriages
–extremes of heaviness or thinness
–history of alcohol abuse
–history of anorexia or bulimia

This risk factor screening will only pick up 50% of women who are GD. Therefore, we would be wise to treat everybody “as if” they are GD because the diet and lifestyle changes are good for everyone (preventive health care).

If your client has any of the above factors, urge her to follow a GD diet and exercise program as early as possible and then, if she does take the 28 week test, she will usually sail through it with flying colors.

This doesn’t mean that she can start eating junk food though. I tell my clients that ice cream and chocolate are toxic to unborn babies–there is way too much fat, salt, sugar and caffeine in these products for a baby in utero to cope with.

Whole, organic foods, fresh water, and love are the ingredients to grow a healthy baby.

How can we best serve the health interests of mother and baby?

If you meet your client prior to the 28 week test, you can let her know that she can improve her chances of passing the test by eating healthy, unrefined food for the week preceding the test and exercising every day (a 20 minute brisk walk that elevates her heart rate). You can explain to her that some healthy women who just ate badly (lots of sweet desserts and junk food) prior to the 28 week test have tested positive for risk of GD and then had to undergo the more unpleasant fasting 3 hour blood tests.

If you meet your client after she has been diagnosed as GDM (gestational diabetic mother), I would encourage you to attend with your client at the diabetic clinic where a nurse will give her counseling and nutrition advice. Usually, the woman will be asked to maintain a food diary and daily ‘exercise after meals’ regimen. She will be shown how to test her own blood and may be asked to count the number of times her baby kicks in a 12 hour period.

The philosophy behind the diet is that the GDM needs to control her blood sugar levels at an even rate (also known as staying in the Zone–not getting stuffed or starved) and can do so by “grazing” on small amounts of wholesome food, eaten often.

What foods should your clients avoid?
*sugar (white or brown)
*honey, molasses, syrup, jams, jellies, marmalade
*chocolate, candy
*puddings, Jell-O, fruit yogurts
*desserts—cakes, pies, pastries, iced cookies, etc.
*soft drinks, tonic water
*sweetened condensed milk
*sweet sauces—oyster sauce, teriyaki, plum, sweet & sour, ketchup

Caffeine has been shown to make the body more resistant to the effects of insulin so tea, coffee and all soda pop should be avoided.

Fruit sugar should only be consumed in small portions. ½ a banana, 10 grapes, a small apple are the serving sizes. Milk products are also high in sugar and should be used in moderation according to the advice of a diabetic nutritionist.

    Update: June 16, 2015

Nice compilation of articles about Gestational Diabetes by an Australian doula http://www.themoderndoula.com.au/g-is-for-gestational-diabetes/