Thank you to Flutterby students Heather and Dan for sharing their little one's birth story!
On Tuesday (11/7) I had my 39-week appointment, and everything looked great! The midwife discovered that I was already 4cm dilated, 60% effaced and -2 station (let’s note that this was further progressed than I was after 18 hours of labor with our first baby, so I was pleasantly surprised)! For the rest of the week, though, I didn't feel any true surges. Nonetheless, I was definitely feeling ready to get things rolling.
Then on Saturday (11/11) afternoon, I actually decided to see an acupuncturist to help start labor - My appointment was 2:30-4:30PM. By 7:00PM, I was feeling waves of cramps every 10-12 minutes, but honestly they felt more like menstrual cramps than labor surges. Regardless, Dan and I decided it would be best to try and get some sleep, so we went to bed by 9:00PM, just in case.
At midnight I woke up to a true surge. I stayed awake to feel out a few more, only to find that they were each lasting a full minute, and only 5 minutes apart! The midwives at our birth center follow the 6-1-1 rule for mamas of subsequent babies (a rule-of-thumb for when to leave home and head in), so truly by this point we should have already arrived at the birth center. Oops! Dan kicked his tail into high-gear, organizing everything and calling the midwife, doula and childcare necessary for our toddler. By 1:00AM we were at the birth center!
There I labored, in the tub mainly, for the next few hours. While riding out each surge, I put the HypnoBirthing methods to great use: more specifically, I had the Affirmations track and background music playing on repeat, and did my best to breathe correctly through each surge so as to maximize their effect. Dan and Liz (our doula) also assisted me with hip squeezes and light touch massage very consistently. At 4:00AM I was 9cm dilated, but then stayed at 9cm until 7:00AM. To be honest, those three hours were pretty grueling. To make no apparent progress, but for the surges to just keep getting stronger and closer together was tough. Also, by this point the pressure in my hips had evolved into back labor, so that made things even more challenging to calmly breathe through.
All of a sudden, while in the tub surging, I could feel my water break as if it were a water balloon popping! Five big surges, and a few focused breaths down/pushes, our baby was born. He literally went from fully in my cervix to down and out the birth canal in less than 15 minutes, and yet miraculously I didn't rip or tear whatsoever! Also I’d like to note that once my water broke, I was back to being pain-free! There was plenty of pressure and stretching, but no pain.
Jamison Arthur was born on Sunday, November 12, 2017. He weighed a healthy 9lbs, 3oz, and measured 20.5 inches in length. As for my perspective, I am very proud of this birth experience! By using the HypnoBirthing techniques, I stayed calm, focused and pain-free for majority of my labor experience. In the end, I had an amazing unmedicated, hands-and-knees water birth for our second baby boy!
We are so humbly grateful to this Flutterby family for allowing us a glimpse into their birthing time. This short video shows you what birth supported by a caring partner and knowledgeable doula (our own Brittany) can look like!
HypnoBirthing® lends itself to a mom's transformative birth!
My husband and I decided to try HypnoBirthing® for our second child. Although my first son’s birth was beautiful in its own way, it was long and mentally exhausting. I labored for 40 hours, got an epidural, and pushed for 2.5 hours with Noah. We had prepared only for the physical aspects, but not at all for the emotional and mental aspects of birthing a child. I remember feeling scared and out of control during Noah’s labor, despite being a L&D nurse and knowing exactly what was happening to my body.
Baby #2 was a completely different experience, both for pregnancy and for my son’s birth. HypnoBirthing® made me feel so relaxed, empowered, and confident throughout pregnancy. Affirmations, especially, became a daily practice, and my husband used the partner's tools, affirmations and relaxation techniques frequently to help me prepare for my birthing time. Any time doubt crept in about whether I could have the unmedicated, fear-free water birth I so desired, I repeated the affirmations to myself.
On Graham’s birth day, my husband was at work, and my toddler and I stayed busy at home. I started having surges (the HypnoBirthing® word for contraction) 3-4 min apart that felt like period cramps. I texted my doula, Erin, telling her that I might be in very early labor. I wasn’t convinced, though, as I had been having regular practice surges for almost five weeks. My surges spaced way out after an hour and a half, as my son and I snuggled in bed watching a movie. I figured it was a false alarm and just more practice surges versus the real thing.
Then, my membranes released at 5:55pm as I was chasing my naked toddler around after his bath time! I called my husband at work and told him he should leave work early to come home, as my midwives wanted me at the hospital within two hours of my membranes releasing (I was GBS+ and needed antibiotics during labor). I decided to take a shower before we left. The surges started to intensify there, and I quickly realized that things might move a little faster this time.
My husband and I left for the hospital (a 40-minute drive), and as soon as we were in the car, I moved into hands and knees over the back of the passenger seat. Affirmations were playing on my headphones and I was fully focusing on that, trying to relax my body as much as possible like we learned in class. However, we were a few minutes away from the hospital when I heard myself start making deep, guttural noises and bearing down. The labor nurse in my head recognized I was pushing and I thought, “Surely not yet!!” I told my husband he needed to book it to the hospital and to tell them I wanted a water birth.
Erin met us at the doors, and I have never felt so relieved to see someone! She reassured me that I could do this, and they wheeled me up (still in hands and knees) in a wheelchair to the birth place. The nurses tried to bring me to triage to assess where I was in labor, and I told them that this wasn’t a triage situation, that it was baby time! Four minutes after we got to the hospital (less than 2 hours after my membranes released), and in a whirlwind of activity, my son Graham was born at 7:40pm. There was no time to have the water birth I had been dreaming of (and demanding, in between surges), but I have never felt so empowered in my life! The midwife told us that she and the nurses had no idea I was so far along in labor because my husband was so calm and matter of fact on the phone call during our drive. He was skeptical at first of doulas and HypnoBirthing®, but became a VERY passionate advocate of both during pregnancy. He felt like HypnoBirthing® gave him the tools necessary to fully support me this time, mind and body, during pregnancy and birth.
I am 100% convinced that HypnoBirthing®, paired with my amazing doula, Erin, and the holistic practices she encouraged (like chiropractic care and acupuncture) helped me to believe my body and my baby would work together to have a safe, easy birth. It was intense, to be sure, but I never felt out of control or like I wanted pain medications. On top of that, my postpartum recovery was radically different from my first, and I know HypnoBirthing® played a large role in that too. I felt so much better both physically and emotionally. I would completely recommend HypnoBirthing® to any and all women!
- Brittany H.
By Erin Stertz-Follett
Since 2012, I have been honored to attend more than 100 births throughout the Twin Cities. First-timers, repeat parents, vaginal and cesarean births, VBACs, and the births of multiples! In some ways, I have "seen it all." Over this time and through bearing witness to the most tender and powerful moments, I have learned a few valuable lessons. I hope that sharing these will help expectant parents and birth professionals alike as they voyage through the process of birth. These are pieces of wisdom that are hard to gain just by reading a book or attending a workshop or birth class - They have been learned through watching many clients labor and birth their babies.
Birth, just like parenting, is a little bit planning and a little bit on-the-job experience. In our society, "going with the flow" is often championed as the best way to move through life. This is most certainly true in many ways. However, in birth, with all of the options there are, messages we receive, feelings we have (personally and as a culture) around birth, and energy that is necessary, "going with the flow" without a firm foundation can have undesired consequences (in our humble experience). First you need to learn what this whole birth "flow" is all about!
I like to encourage parents to take *some* kind of childbirth education to learn not only what the process of birth looks like, but also how to mentally and physically navigate the process. Of course, I am a bit biased towards out-of-hospital classes like these, because they teach you how to be good parents/birthers vs. just being a good patient. They cover how to make informed choices, and be your own best advocate, which makes you feel powerful. Whatever you do, prepare in some way and encourage others to do the same! Trust me, you will feel ready for whatever turn your birthing may take. And you will be able to take full ownership over your own birth.
Provider choice is so important. Trust your gut.
A common adage we "birth nerds" use is this: Don't go to a Chinese restaurant and expect to eat the best Italian food of your life. In other words, don't choose a provider (OB, midwife, family practice doc) that is clearly not in alignment with what you want, while simultaneously expecting to have the birth you want. Instead, choose a provider who truly, sincerely embraces your birth preferences. How will you know it's the right fit? Ask them questions - How do they feel about common labor interventions and how often they use them, how often do they support parents who want your type of birth, what is their cesarean rate, etc? The answers of your doctor or midwife should affirm that they routinely practice in a way that is compatible with your birth preferences. If their answers don't meet your criteria, look elsewhere. It is never too late to make a change.
The same can be said for birth location - If you want a no- or low-intervention birth, don't select a hospital with a higher cesarean rate, or whose "birth of the day" is a high-intervention one. Birth is a time in which women are very powerful, but also very vulnerable to the input they are receiving from their surroundings. Medical providers wield power and expertise, and birth is the very last place you want to be in "fight-or-flight" mode or feel intimidated. You need endorphins and oxytocin being released (happy hormones!), not adrenaline/catecholamine ("Help, I need to escape!" hormones). Remember that doulas/support professionals/partners cannot "save you" if you wind up in a situation during your birth that puts you on the defense. Plan ahead, interview providers, ask your support team for their opinions, and shop around *ahead of time* so you can feel calm and confident going into your birth! Check out this previous blog post for more tips on finding a supportive provider!
Water is everything.
Water is the source of all life, this we know! Doulas also know that it is an essential source of energy (and of course, hydration) throughout labor and birth. It provides a balance in your body's fluids, boosts circulation (including circulating oxygenated blood to your uterus), helps to maintain your body temperature (laboring women get warm!), reduces swelling, and distributes nutrients.
One easy way to get enough water intake is to take a sip after *every* contraction/surge, especially as labor moves along into the more active phase. Of course, snacking as much as you can/feel comfortable doing is also important in keeping you energized throughout labor! But, if you don't feel hungry, be sure you are continually drinking - Smart Water is a great alternative to plain tap water, as it contains energy-boosting electrolytes! While you're at it, be sure to also use the bathroom about once every hour, even as labor advances and it feels like the last thing on your mind. This allows baby an easier journey down (no full bladder to wrestle with!) and helps you see if your fluid intake is where it should be. In cases where mom hasn't been taking in enough fluids, we see longer labors with moms tiring-out much sooner. So, drink up!
No two births are exactly the same. Never predict how things might go.
"My last baby came in just five hours, so this one should fly right out!" -- "My first labor was 64 hours, so I bet I am in for the long haul this time too." -- "My mom had a cesarean, so I think I will need one as well." -- "My friend had an epidural, and she and I have the same personality, so I bet I will want one, too."
These are all just examples of things I have heard from birthing parents in my time. The problem? None of these are inherently true. Sometimes baby #1 (or #2) is fast, while the subsequent little one takes their sweet time. And sometimes the opposite is true! There is nothing to support the idea that the type of birth your mother had is a prescription for what your birth will look like. Your birth will most certainly look different than your friend's... or your neighbor's... or the woman down the hall in the labor and delivery unit. My point? Go in with as few expectations as possible when it comes to exactly what your birth will look like. Focus on positive messages, yes, but do not make any finite assumptions! If we knew exactly what each birth would look like, doula and educators would soon be out of jobs as you wouldn't need our guidance anymore (and that would make us so, so sad).
"Slow" labor doesn't mean something is wrong, and patience is important.
One of the first skills we doulas learn is how to "help a labor progress." This may mean changing positions, movement, certain types of gentle bodywork, 'Spinning Babies' fetal positioning techniques, etc. However, let it be known that sometimes, there is really nothing "wrong" and nothing that needs doing. This can be hard when we feel/assume that all women want a "fast" birth and there is something in the way if it doesn't happen speedily. Or when we as doulas assume that our job is to constantly be "doing" something. Sometimes, we just need to wait for baby to find his/her way and for mom's body and baby to continue to work together at their own pace during the dance of birth. We just need to hold the space and bear witness. Turn down the lights, turn up the soothing music, and allow the process to unfold unless there is a real reason to try to move things along.
Cervical exams mean very little.
"The cervix is not a crystal ball." It cannot tell us exactly when labor will start, how long it will last, or when baby will be born. In both pregnancy and labor itself, cervical exams are best kept to a minimum and used judiciously - When you have a good reason to be going on a search for answers, AND when you know what you will do with that information. If they are being done out of sheer curiosity on your provider's part, or because you are on a "time clock" with your labor, then they are not being used wisely. Think to yourself, before accepting a check, "What will we do with the information found? Will it change our decision-making before or during labor? What if I am not as far along as I think I am - Will that be deflating?" After all, curiosity killed the cat.
Where the mind goes, the body tends to follow.
Ever hear of the Law of Psycho-Physical Association (aka the Mind-Body Connection)? Yeah, this is huge in birth. Whether we know it or not, for every thought or feeling we have, there is a physical or chemical reaction in our bodies. Fear = jumpiness, shaking, heart racing. Nervousness = red face, or pale face, shaking, sweating. Stress = sore muscles, tight jaw, fatigue, etc. Sexual arousal = lubrication, hormonal shifts, and yes, baby-making. It is so important that those around a birthing person help to keep them calm and in full-on endorphin-release mode. We want them laughing, crying happy/healing tears, reciting positive affirmations, and working through each little transition in labor without thinking or feeling in ways that cause negative reactions within the body. This allows for a smoother, easier birth experience for mom and for baby!
Sometimes things don't go as planned.
"Even the best-laid plans..." Birth is magical, mysterious, and unpredictable. There are no guaranteed outcomes. Sometimes babies tell us that they need to be born in a different way or on a different timeframe than what we had assumed. Sometimes there are answers, and sometimes they are slow to come. Sometimes they never do. In those moments, I have found it paramount that birthing families are surrounded by understanding medical providers and support people who will explain the options, sit with them in the quiet time and process, remind them how powerful they are, and be there afterwards in case they need extra guidance and healing. If anyone, any place, or any program promises specific birth outcomes, that should be a red flag. Be prepared, educated, and supported. But also be flexible.
Happy Birthing, and if I can do anything to make your experience a better one, please let me know!
About the Authors
Erin Stertz-Follett and Brittany Kubricky work in partnership to bring doula services, empowering childbirth education, and early parenting support to Twin Cities families. Flutterby is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota!
A first-time mom shares her speedy, confident birth story!
"When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change" -Marie Mongan, HypnoBirthing Creator
My husband, Matt, and I attended the HypnoBirthing® class at Flutterby when I was around 25 weeks pregnant. I knew I wanted a natural birth, and the information Erin provided, along with the philosophy of HypoBirthing in general, really helped to calm my fears and empowered me to make informed decisions throughout my pregnancy. I started listening to the hypnosis tracks and birthing affirmations every night before bed throughout the rest of my pregnancy.
Fast-forward to 37 weeks. I woke up to my water breaking on a Sunday morning. I was thankful to have made it past that milestone knowing I would be able to birth at the birthing center and hoping that the brith would go as planned. I was still nervous about whether the Hypno-preparation I was doing would "work," and if I would be able to stay calm and let my body lead the way. My midwife suggested I see an acupuncturist and chiropractor that day to help get labor started. That evening, Matt and I listened to the HypoBirthing tracks again as we fell asleep. I woke up about 3:30am feeling some mild back pain, still listening to the track in the background. I was breathing deeply and keeping my body relaxed, sure that things were starting to happen.
About an hour later, I woke Matt up to press on my back as the surges were getting stronger. I remember going deep into my body and leaning on the side of the bed as music played in the background. I think it was around 7am when Matt called Brittany, our doula, and the midwife. I could hear the conversations, but was so in the “zone” that I wasn’t really aware of everything being said or what was going on outside of my body. I also wasn’t able to keep track of my surges, because I wasn’t fully aware of when they were stopping and starting. Another hour passed, and I could sense that the birth was getting close. About the same time Brittany arrived, I was feeling the urge to push. It came as a surprise more than anything... and a relief as the pressure I had been feeling in my back was alleviated! Thank goodness Brittany was there, because I still didn’t really know where I was at in labor. I remember leaning on her, breathing, and she rubbed my back and repeated affirmations to me. So awesome.
After just a few surges, Brittany told us we needed to go to the birth center right away because she could see baby's head! I had no idea he was that far along. I knew I needed to get to the car. I came out of my hypnosis enough to put shoes on (I was just wearing a towel around my waist!) and get into Brittany’s car. I breathed through two surges before arriving at the birth center. It was labor day. Everyone had to make an extra effort to get there and the nurses arrived just before we did. We knew he was coming fast, so when they asked if i wanted to try the birthing tub, I declined and got up onto the bed. I remember having just a few surges on the bed… everyone was cheering me on and I felt like a rock star. It actually felt good to breathe him out…not easy, but good. About 30 minutes after we arrived at the birth center, William Doyce was born: September 4th, 2017, 9:54am. He gave out one small cry as he came out and then seemed immediately calm as he rested on my chest. Matt and I just laid there in awe, looking at him and touching his skin.
My birth experience was so positive, and a great deal of that had to do with the HypnoBirthing preparation and education I received at Flutterby. My biggest surprise and takeaway from the birth was that I didn’t feel afraid. I knew what was happening, and that my body and my baby both knew what to do. I just needed to get out of the way. I couldn’t have done that without the HypnoBirthing practice.
THANK YOU, Bethany, for your story!
Flutterby, located in the Twin Cities, provides childbirth education, doula services, and more! All expectant families are welcome here.
Erin Stertz-Follett, Owner