Coaching Versus Consulting

Coaching and consulting are services offered by professionals in many areas. These words are often used interchangeably, despite the fact that they are actually distinct services. Simply put, coaching is helping a client to work through a situation and find their own solution, while consulting is offering advice and/or ideas. Coaches guide exploration; consultants advise. Both coaching and consulting have value, for different situations and purposes. So, which one is right for you?

Coaching might be for you if you don’t like being told what to do. If you have a lot of great ideas or strong opinions, but you aren’t sure exactly how to put them into action, then coaching is a great option. If you know what you want to do, but you haven’t been able to get it done, coaching can help. Or, if you want help exploring and organizing your thoughts, analyzing a problem, or making complex decisions, coaching is for you. Anybody who wants a good listener to help them sort through their situation would likely be served well by a coach.

On the other hand, consulting might be for you if you just want somebody to tell you what you should do. Consulting is more of a “quick fix;” although it doesn’t necessarily mean low effort, consultants offer advice that is tried-and-true. If you want some outside ideas to solve a problem you are having, consulting may be a great option. If you have no idea where to start, consulting can help. Anybody who wants expert advice in an area they may not feel confident in would likely be served well by a consultant.

Coaching and consulting as professions both have no legal definitions, but there are various forms of training and certification from individual organizations for both. As an example, I was trained through the Christian Coach Institute, which offers their own certification as well as a pathway for certification through the International Coach Federation. There are many coaching schools and overseeing organizations, and this is just one example. The word “consultant” is used more loosely, and can mean any number of things. Frequently, a consultant is a person who is considered an expert in some area. Companies may have consultants who use their products or services to help clients. Other consultants, such as myself, may be self-taught and simply using their personal experience to advise others.

Hopefully, this short article has been helpful in clarifying what I mean when I say that I offer both coaching and consulting services. As a professional, I will always strive to be very clear about when I am providing which service to my clients.

Thanks for reading!

 

My Experience with Natural Induction Techniques

During my recent pregnancy, I began to feel very early on that I would give birth before my guess date. So when I reached 36 weeks and began to feel early signs of birth approaching, I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised, however, as week after week went by and baby stayed in. By the time I reached my guess date (“due date”), I was baffled. When I passed the time at which I gave birth to my previous baby (which was 40 weeks and 4 days), I was even more shocked. I began to truly feel that my body was confused or somehow incapable of giving birth, and that it would never happen. Of course, that wasn’t true, and I did have my baby eventually (at 41 weeks)!

While not all women go past their guess date, many women do struggle with patience as they near the end of their pregnancies. That’s probably why there are a plethora of suggestions in baby books and on the internet about ways to naturally “induce” or encourage birthing (“labor”) to begin. From about 37 weeks on, I tried as many of them as I was comfortable with. In this post I’d like to share my experience.

Here are the things that I tried:

  1. Red raspberry leaf tea. I began drinking this tea early in my third trimester, limiting it to about 2 mugs per day. When I reached 37 weeks, I started drinking as much as I wanted, which was a lot, maybe 4 to 5 mugs per day. Currently, I am still addicted to this tea!
  2. Eating basil and oregano. There is a popular idea that eating a specific recipe of eggplant parmesan will stimulate birthing. According to Google, it’s the basil and oregano that does the trick. Since I had heartburn throughout my pregnancy and couldn’t tolerate anything tomato based, I made pesto instead, which was even more concentrated in these herbs.
  3. Walking. Now, to be honest, by the end of my pregnancy going on long walks was uncomfortable and exhausting, so I went on short 20-minute walks instead. I also didn’t do this every day, though some pregnant women do.
  4. Walking on the beach. Supposedly, the combination of walking, being barefoot to activate pressure points on the feet, and being relaxed by the calming sound of the waves, can all help to stimulate birthing.
  5. Pregnancy massage with pressure points. Some spas offer massages for pregnant women that supposedly utilize specific pressure points to stimulate birthing. (While very relaxing, this was expensive.)
  6. Sex, including nipple stimulation and orgasm. Sex is supposed to be one of the most effective ways to induce birthing naturally. The prostaglandins in semen are a natural ripening agent for the cervix. The physical contact produces oxytocin, which is a natural uterine stimulator. When women are able to orgasm, this produces even more oxytocin and stimulates the birthing muscles further. And when nipple stimulation is included in sex, it produces even more oxytocin.
  7. Nipple stimulation with breast pump. This is one of the “big guns” when it comes to inducing birthing naturally. One must use this tool cautiously, to avoid producing overly strong pressure waves before the body is ready. I followed my midwife’s advice to use the pump for 20 minutes per day, starting at about 40 weeks.
  8. Hypnosis track for natural induction. I listened to Hypnobabies’ “Come Out Baby” hypnosis track, which is used for encouraging baby and body to be ready for birth very soon. I began listening at 39 weeks, every day, and occasionally twice per day.
  9. Talking to baby. Sometimes, there may be an emotional or psychological reason why baby isn’t coming out. It can be helpful for some people to take some time to mentally connect with baby and even ask baby to please come out. I tried this many times.
  10. Womb balancing & baby positioning stretches. Sometimes, birthing doesn’t begin because baby is not in the best position yet. There are specific stretches, such as those recommended on the Spinning Babies website, to help balance the womb and encourage baby into the best position. I did several of these stretches most days for the last few weeks of my pregnancy, and whenever I felt baby was not in the best position.
  11. Sitting on birth ball. This has a lot to do with baby positioning. Sitting on a birth ball (which is just an exercise ball) helps baby to be in a posterior position and engage in the pelvis so that baby’s head is applying pressure to the cervix, which stimulates pressure waves. I tried to sit on my ball often, instead of lounging on the couch, but at this point in pregnancy rest is also important.
  12. Membrane sweep. This is a more invasive method of natural birthing induction, and it does carry some risks, but it’s also considered to be fairly gentle (and as such, not always effective). During a vaginal exam, the maternity care provider inserts a finger into the cervix and sweeps it around to separate the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus. This stimulates the birthing muscles, and can lead to more effective birthing waves. Using my hypnosis, I found this to be slightly uncomfortable but not painful, and it did cause my bloody show and a strong pressure wave pattern for several hours. (Unfortunately, the pattern did not continue.)
  13. Praying. As a follower of Christ, this was my first tool and one I used most frequently. I prayed in many different ways. Sometimes I prayed asking God to please let baby be born soon. Sometimes I prayed for patience. Sometimes I prayed in submission to God’s will in the timing of my birthing. Prayer helped me get through the challenging time at the end of my pregnancy. However, it did not work to help me get my way in the timing of my birth. Ultimately, I had to accept that God has a plan that is best, and he’s probably not going to override that for my temporary happiness. He loves me too much to give me something that maybe wouldn’t have been so great for me or my baby. On that note, I would never recommend to stop asking. Sometimes, we need to ask and ask and wait and wait, while God builds our faith and patience, before he moves the pieces into place to grant our desires.
  14. Homeopathics. Following my midwife’s advice, I tried taking some homeopathic medicines that are supposed to encourage birthing. After doing more research on homeopathics, I’ve come to the conclusion that they really only work if you believe that they work (placebo effect). The concentration of the “medicine” in homeopathics is so diluted as to be nonexistent. That being said, the placebo effect is actually very powerful!
  15. Acupressure, essential oils, and targeted exercises with a doula. My doula offered a “birth encouragement” appointment as part of her services, and at 40 weeks and 6 days, I used it. She used essential oils, acupressure, belly sifting, and stretches and exercises to help encourage birthing. She had a variety of techniques up her sleeve, and we spent hours together trying them.
  16. Herbal induction. This is one that I actually didn’t try, because I had my baby before we got that far! It was next on my list. According to my midwife, it is a very effective method, which is why it should only be done with the supervision of a birth professional. It involves taking specific herbs at intervals over the course of a few hours.
  17. Castor oil. This is another one I didn’t try, but it would have been the last resort before I transferred care to an OBGYN. According to my midwife, this has never failed her. But according to my doula, it’s not a pleasant experience. Thus, why I would save this for a last resort and only use it under supervision of a birth professional.

 

As you can see, I tried a lot of different things to encourage my baby out. Unfortunately, most of them were not effective for me, at least not in any obvious way. It is possible that some of these things did work in a slow and delayed manner to prepare my body and baby for birthing. It would be impossible to know if the timing would have been different had I not tried any of these things. And for some women, these and other tricks may be very quickly effective! We are all different.

One thing I know is that while there may be things that will encourage baby out for some women, they will usually not work if baby and body are not ready, even if they seem or feel ready. Every body is different, and what works for some may not work for others. There’s no harm in trying, but women may not want to put all of their hopes on these remedies. There is a fine line between being hopeful and optimistic, and being desperate. Without patience and peace, we can easily become desperate and discouraged. Ultimately, the path that birthing takes, including the natural timing, is usually for the best and loving patience is key.

So natural birth induction techniques are something to consider for moms and babies who feel really ready (and are full term!). But, they should be taken with a grain of salt. The only thing that definitely works is waiting. On that note, unfortunately, the 42 week mark is not enough time for some moms and babies, who may need a little longer. In this case, families must make the best decisions for them, whether that’s medical induction or waiting while monitoring mom and baby for continued health. It is a sad reality that midwives are not legally allowed to care for women past this point (at least in California), and most doctors will push hard for an induction at the 42 week mark. Women always have the power to make their own decisions and act against medical advice, but this isn’t always easy and can be confusing. We all need to do our own research, hard thinking, discussing, and praying about the best decision for our own situation.

Fortunately for most women, birthing will begin naturally (or with a little bit of encouragement) before 42 weeks. Our bodies are made to do this, after all!

1-2-3 Magic: A Solution for Struggles with Discipline

For the past few months, Cory and I have been struggling with Cody’s behavior and figuring out how to best discipline him. I’ve discovered that three year olds, AKA threenagers, are a whole other level of challenging. Forget “terrible twos,” it’s the threes that really get you! At least, that has been my experience so far.

Anyway, I started reading more parenting books, re-reading some of my old ones, and doing research on discipline methods. As an attachment parent, my first instinct has always been to try using “positive discipline” methods which do not include punishment. I’ve read books that have taught discipline methods such as simply staying calm, using specific ways of speaking, or relying on a toolbox of tricks. Some of them were helpful some of the time, but I struggled with not having a more streamlined, consistent, and most importantly effective way of disciplining. When my attempts at applying what I’ve learned failed, I would resort to anger, which wasn’t effective either and left me feeling guilty. (In other words, I’m the “bulldog” parent. Cory, on the other hand, tends to be the “pushover” parent.)

Finally, I found a resource that started to help. I found a website, centerforparentingeducation.org, which provides a lot of realistic, practical, and evidence-based advice about a variety of parenting challenges. It helped me to better understand the developmental stage that Cody is in, and it also opened the door for me to accept that punishment, in the form of gentle consequences, does have a very important place in parenting. I highly recommend parents check it out to educate themselves and improve their parenting skills!

Still, even after my research, I was having a hard time applying a lot of what I learned to real-life situations with Cody. That’s when I came across a book called 1-2-3 Magic. I believe that this program is an answer to my prayers about how to handle Cody’s discipline! The ebook popped up as a suggestion for me when I was looking for a book to read on my tablet; I bought it and devoured it in two days. Since then, I have already seen excellent results, and I have felt very empowered and calm as a parent.

The 1-2-3 Magic system is simple, gentle, and effective. It involves cutting out unhelpful parental behaviors like nagging, yelling, lecturing, and spanking. Instead, discipline comes in the form of time-outs, or other consequences, which are enforced with very few words. There are also a handful of tools in the program for encouraging positive behavior. Most importantly, the program focuses on strengthening the parent-child bond, which is irreplaceable not only for disciplining effectively, but for enjoying our children!  

We have been using 1-2-3 Magic for a week now, and of course we are still not perfect and never will be. But when we use it right, I am able to stay completely calm and still gain Cody’s compliance. It has honestly been a game-changer for me, even in this short amount of time. I was at the point where I admitted sadly to Cory that I wasn’t enjoying Cody anymore because of the constant struggles with his behavior. Now, I feel like a new parent, and I’ve been enjoying my son again because discipline is calm and quick. It is really a wonderful thing!

You can find out more about 1-2-3 Magic here. The book is available on every major ebook platform, or in physical form through many retailers. If it wasn’t clear already, I highly recommend this book for all parents!

 

There are no affiliate links in this post. I am simply a fan and I want to share my discovery!

Also note that 1-2-3 Magic is for children over the age of about 18 months to two years. “Discipline” for babies should consist mainly of prevention, redirection, and distraction. Consequences aren’t appropriate for these little ones, because they can’t understand at this age! 😉

Abigail’s Birth Story

Disclaimer: This is a birth story. It contains details about the birth process and my personal experience, which some people may not be comfortable reading. If this is you, please don’t read it! Otherwise, continue. 🙂

My birthing with Abigail was quite a journey. I expected to have her early, but ended up giving birth at exactly 41 weeks of pregnancy, longer than I went with Cody. The time I spent waiting at the end was very difficult emotionally, and as irrational as it was, I truly felt at times that I’d never have her. Of course, I did have her in God’s timing. Now that she’s here I am overjoyed!

Abigail MarlyAnne Westropp was born on Labor Day, Monday, September 4th, 2017 at 3:16 PM. She was born at home, completely unmedicated. She weighed 7 lbs and 12 oz and was 20 ¼ inches long at birth. Here is how it all happened.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant, I began to experience more frequent warm up pressure waves than I’d previously been having. I also passed a small amount of blood, which seemed to be the beginning of my bloody show. Over the next several weeks, I continued to experience more warm up waves, with some periods of prodromal waves. There were many times I thought my birthing time was beginning, but they all were false alarms. At 38 weeks, I began trying many natural methods of encouraging birthing to begin. I tried walking, sex, certain foods, and hypnosis. At 40 weeks, I began trying some more aggressive natural methods of induction, including nipple stimulation and acupressure.

Finally at 40 weeks and 5 days, on September 2nd, I tried the most aggressive option so far and had my midwife sweep my membranes, which led to my full bloody show. That night, I had a good pressure wave pattern for several hours, and was very hopeful, but then it faded. The next afternoon, I had an appointment with my doula to try more natural induction techniques. I was optimistic, since she’s never had a client who this appointment didn’t work for. We tried many things, but after over 5 hours, we still had not established a good pressure wave pattern, and we decided to call it a night. My doula, Lynsey, left my house around 10:30 PM, and I went to bed with my hypnosis track playing as usual. I felt discouraged and resigned when I went to bed.

At about 1 AM that night, on September 4th, I woke up because of strong waves I was feeling. I began timing them, while listening to a hypnosis track. They continued to be strong, about 40 seconds to a minute long, and between 3 to 7 minutes apart. After an hour, I called my midwife, Alicia, and we decided it was time for her to come over. She arrived around 3 AM, and I continued to listen to my hypnosis tracks and mellow worship music while using my hypnosis tools.

I’d already woken up Cory around 2 to tell him what was going on, and encouraged him to get more sleep. By 4, I was ready for him to start actively supporting me, so I woke him up. I also called Lynsey at this time. Shortly after, I decided that I wanted to move to the bedroom and start using my birth pool, so we tried to move our sleeping son Cody to the guest bedroom. He woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep, so we called Cory’s mom, Marsha, to come take care of him. While she drove out, we set up the birth pool and I had some time with Cody in the pool. He helped me decorate the pool with submersible orange lights, which I’d chosen to help me envision my Hypnobabies’ orange hypno-anesthesia.

Around 6 AM, Marsha arrived. Although the timing is a blur, I know I spent this active birthing time moving between my pool, the bed, and my chair, while remaining in hypnosis and listening to my tracks out loud, and hearing birth prompts from Cory. At some point, my midwife’s assistant arrived, another midwife I’d met years ago named Jennifer. The midwives offered gentle support and otherwise rested and stayed unobtrusive. Cody was happy and busy with Marsha, and Cory stayed with me almost constantly. I started to have more bloody show during that time.

Around 10 AM, Alicia offered to check my dilation, and I agreed. Lynsey arrived while that was happening. To my great surprise and joy, Alicia said she couldn’t feel any cervix– meaning, I was completely dilated and effaced. I cried happy tears and hugged Cory and Lynsey, because I knew then that Abigail would be coming soon.

Alicia was able to feel that baby was asynclitic, and not quite fully engaged as a result, so we tried some belly sifting. From that point on, I spent time resting between waves on the couch or bed, and trying different positions in the pool. My support team kept me constantly hydrated, nourished me with light snacks, and reminded me to use the bathroom. Of course, they also kept hypnosis tracks playing for me and read birth prompts.

My pressure waves throughout this entire time were strong, and close together. I began to feel some exhaustion after the first few hours, and then began feeling a lot of back discomfort. Hours after being completely dilated, I still had not started to feel any pushing urges, and my emotional state started to struggle to remain peaceful. I began thinking that I couldn’t go on much longer.

Finally at about 2 PM, I broke down. Sitting in my pool, I told my team I couldn’t do it anymore, in tears. They rallied around me. They told me I was doing it, and they were going to help me. They told me it was time to start pushing and get the baby out. I said it hurt too much, and they told me I could do it, and to use my hypnosis. Finally, their encouragement broke through and I felt a sense of resolve, that I could do it and I would. I told Jesus that I needed his help.

On the next wave, I started pushing. At first, it increased the discomfort to be almost unbearable, but after just a second, it lifted. I took as deep of breaths as I could and then pushed while making loud, low, opening sounds. Sometimes I became very loud! Then I tried pushing after taking a deep breath, using the breath to bear down, and pushing several times during each wave. My lower back was in pain during my waves now, so Lynsey massaged it while I pushed. In between waves, I rested and took deep breaths, breathing oxygen to baby while my midwives monitored her heart rate. I moved between several different positions for pushing. Sometimes I squatted and leaned back against the wall of the pool. Other times I leaned forward on the pool wall, or simply went on hands and knees. I also tried Lynsey’s suggestion of squatting and pulling hard on a rebozo (scarf) that Cory held. I stayed in the pool the whole time. Cody and Marsha came in at some point to witness the process.

I pushed for a little over an hour, before I started crowning. I reached down and felt baby’s soft head and her silky hair. My midwives guided me to push more gently at this point, to allow myself to stretch naturally, and I did. I felt some burning, but it didn’t hurt. I told myself to stretch, and I did. Baby’s head came out into my hand, and I held her head, waiting for the rest of her to slip out. After what felt like only a few moments, but was apparently six minutes, suddenly there was some urgency I was vaguely aware of.

Everything snapped into motion as Alicia said she wanted me out of the pool, now, and my team basically lifted and dragged me out, straight to the bed on my hands and knees. Cory told me everything was fine. I was told to stop pushing. In my head, I had one thought, that Abigail needed to be okay. I was maneuvered into a runner’s squat position, and my midwives were doing things I wasn’t aware of, trying to ease baby out. There was no pain, just waiting, until finally they told me to push as hard as I could. I did and Abigail was born, finally, and I flipped onto my back and held her on my chest. She didn’t cry right away, and I rubbed her gently and talked to her until finally, she let out her first tiny cry. Her cord was short, so I couldn’t move her much, but I held her and kissed her warm wet head. She started looking for the breast quickly, and with just a little guidance she latched on like a pro.

Later, I learned that Abigail was having a hard time coming out because she had her hands up under her chin. The midwives had to reach in and push her hands down to allow her to come out. Although that may sound painful, I didn’t feel it. Through all of that, I only had a small tear that barely required two stitches. Although her birth was somewhat traumatic, both she and I came through it easily, thanks to my incredible and competent birth team.

After Abigail was born, we waited a short time for my placenta to be born. Unfortunately, I started to hemorrhage both before and after birthing the placenta, meaning I was bleeding too much. My midwives gave me a shot of pitocin and massaged my uterus, all with me still in hypnosis and using my tools for comfort. I continued to nurse Abigail, which is helpful for controlling bleeding after birth. After a few minutes, my bleeding had slowed but not completely stopped, so I was given another shot of pitocin. Finally, the bleeding stopped, and we rested.

After that final drama, things were calm. Abigail had her newborn exam next to me while Jennifer cleaned me up. Then we nursed some more, and Cory and I were left alone to bond with baby while the house was cleaned up a bit. Cody met his baby sister, a fascinating and strange creature to him. I cried happy tears again, thanking God for our daughter and sitting in awe of how lucky we are to have two beautiful children. Cory held Abigail and we took some photos.

After a little while, we decided it was time to cut the cord. It was still attaching Abigail to the placenta, which was lying wrapped up nearby. We were happy that we’d allowed every possible drop of blood to flow into baby before cutting the cord, but we were ready to have more mobility for Cory to hold her. He clamped and cut the cord himself. Later, I was stitched up while happily nursing Abby, and she got her vitamin K shot while still nursing. She let go to cry a two-second protest before going back to the breast.

After all was settled, my birth team said goodbye and left. I nestled happily in my bed with my baby girl, and my husband and son close by. Could there be anything better?

There are so many things I’m thankful for, looking back at this experience. First and foremost, a happy and healthy baby and mama, which is always the main goal. I’m also thankful for my midwives, who knew exactly what to do in a potentially scary situation. They saved our lives, really. I’m thankful for my doula, who supported me so well both physically and emotionally. She also managed to take photos and videos throughout my entire birthing process, which I can now treasure forever. My amazing husband and birth partner, Cory, was a superhero. He pushed himself physically to support me through his own exhaustion. He stayed calm always, told me frequently how I was doing such a great job, gave me hypnosis cues, and stayed by my side throughout the birth of our child. All together, my team was a formidable force. They held me up in so many ways when I was sure I could not do it. With them, I could.

I’m thankful for Hypnobabies, without which I can only imagine the difficulty I would have had giving birth. Some women have easy births, but I apparently do not. And I did not have a painless birth, either, but with Hypnobabies, I was able to have a more easy and comfortable experience, and succeed in my dream of having a natural birth at home.

Most of all, I’m thankful to God. He kept me and Abigail safe. Jesus held me during the hardest parts of my birthing, and without his presence I can’t imagine how I would have coped. He is my savior, not only for eternity, but for my life right now. He enabled me with strength I would not have had on my own. And he blessed me and Cory with such an unbelievable gift, our precious baby girl, not to mention our son almost three years ago. We are so very blessed, for God is good.

I am so very relieved, proud, and satisfied with my birth experience. Knowing that I did this makes me feel empowered to do anything. I feel very lucky to have experienced both a happy hospital birth with Cody and now a completely natural home birth with Abigail. It’s wonderful experience to have as a birth educator as well! How very blessed I’ve been. <3

Welcome to the world, little Abigail. You are so very precious.

Hypnotic childbirth and hypnobabies Riverside

There Are No Rules

With my current pregnancy coming to an end soon (theoretically), I’ve been learning a lot about birth. I thought I already knew a lot, but I’m finding that there’s an infinite amount to be learned in the subject. One thing that I’ve discovered and am trying to embrace recently, is that when it comes to birthing, there really are no rules.

Women are told by many sources about how things go during “labor.” There is an order to things, or a general order, and a lot of rules about what will happen. But the truth is, none of it is actually set in stone.

 

Here are seven common myths about birth:

 

Myth: A woman’s water will break before she goes into labor.

Reality: Many women experience their bag of waters rupturing well into birthing time. Some babies are even born with the sac still intact. Other women may have amniotic fluid leaks earlier in pregnancy, or multiple episodes of their “water breaking” throughout their birthing process. And yes, for some women, their water breaking is the way that their body begins birthing.

Myth: Women must dilate to 10 CM before they can have their babies.

Reality: Every woman’s body is different, and while 10 CM is the “standard” measurement for full dilation, some women’s bodies may dilate slightly less or more. And, since birth professionals don’t exactly use a measuring stick, even the process of measuring dilation is basically a guess, which can vary greatly based on the practitioner’s perspective. The only real rule here is that all women giving birth vaginally will dilate enough to pass their baby through the cervix.

Myth: Birthing women dilate at a steady pace, so dilation is very important to gauge where a women is in her birthing process.

Reality: Some women may be 1 CM dilated for a long time, then become fully dilated within a short amount of time. Other women may reach 6 CM quickly, but take longer to complete. Some women walk around for weeks being a few centimeters dilated, before they really begin their birthing time in earnest. It’s also possible (I know from experience!) to dilate, even to almost complete, and then regress and close back up significantly. So checking dilation during pregnancy or birth is really quite useless, as this information does not tell us when a woman will give birth.

Myth: All women experience a bloody show, and this is a sign that birthing will soon begin.

Reality: Some women pass their mucous plug and/or some blood during birthing time, and some women never notice this phenomenon at all. Other women have a bloody show hours, days, or weeks before birthing. Still others may notice they pass some blood and mucus several times before and during birthing.

Myth: Babies are not ready to be born before exactly 37 weeks, and are “overdue” if they’re not born by their “due date” at 40 weeks.

Reality: Babies can’t tell time or read calendars. They don’t have tiny invisible in-the-womb iPhones to notify them when it’s time for their birth appointment. According to our labels, babies may be born pre-term, early-term, full-term, late-term, or post-term; but none of these labels will tell us if a particular baby is healthy or not. Some babies truly are ready around 36 weeks. Other babies truly aren’t ready until after 42 weeks. Most babies are ready somewhere between 37 and 42, but most is not all. And, it is very important to realize that our pregnancy dating system relies on the assumption that every single woman in the world ovulates on exactly day 14 of her cycle, which is quite false. So when a baby is born before 37 weeks, it warrants taking precautions, but it does not warrant panic or automatic assumptions that the baby needs special care. And when a baby is not born by 42 weeks, it warrants more patience and birth encouragement techniques, but not necessarily medical induction. (Induction before 42 weeks is even less evidence-based.) There are exceptions, but most babies will be born at the right time for them, if allowed to do so.

Myth: Birth begins and progresses in a clear pattern.

Reality: For some women, there may be an easily identifiable “early birthing time,” followed by a more active birthing time, and culminating in pushing and the actual birth. For these women, pressure waves (“contractions”) begin fairly mildly and about 15-20 minutes apart, and continue to grow stronger, longer, and closer together until they reach transformation (“transition”), when they are very close together and strong. This process may take 8-12 hours or so. Other women may have a longer early birthing time, lasting 24 hours or more, before active birthing time begins. But for still other women, there may be a very long, unpredictable period of “warm-up,” “pre-birthing,” and/or prodromal birthing waves, which lasts days or weeks, before leading into true early birthing time or even straight into a more active birthing time. (Prodromal birthing tends to feel and like the real deal, but then it stops). This is what I’m currently experiencing. And yes, I feel like a car that keeps stalling out. So for some women, like me, birth doesn’t begin in an obvious way, but rather a very slow and ambiguous way. And even after birthing begins, it doesn’t always continue to progress smoothly. Some women experience starts and stops in their birthing process. Others never have a rhythmic pattern of pressure waves at all, instead experiencing sporadic waves that nonetheless work to bring baby out. This is why timing pressure waves periodically can be somewhat helpful for many women, but confusing and discouraging for others. Seeing a pattern may bring false hope that birthing time has started, while not seeing a pattern may be needlessly discouraging. Ultimately, birth happens in its own way on its own time.

Myth: Birth is always painful.

Reality: While many women do experience pain during birthing, it is not actually necessary and certainly not a rule. Many women have used Supernatural Childbirth, childbirth hypnosis programs such as Hypnobabies, simply a positive mindset, or yes, even drugs, to eliminate pain during birthing. (It should be noted that pain medications for birthing are not without risks and side effects, nor are they always effective). Not only that, but some women simply experience birth much more comfortably than others, perhaps because of unique biological, psychological, or cultural reasons. There are even many women who have experienced orgasmic birth (yes, you read that right!) The belief that birth is excruciating is one of the very reasons why so many women experience it that way. But it doesn’t have to be so! Birth can be an easy, comfortable, and enjoyable experience; much of this is in our mindset, and much of it is in the tools that we choose to use.

 

When it comes to the institution of birth, particularly in our country, there are so many other myths that have been perpetuated as well. But, that’s a topic for another post. For now, I will simply end with this: birth is a mysterious process. We can’t control it, predict it, or put it in a box, no matter how hard we try. Our best bet is to respect the birth process for each individual woman and baby, trust in our natural abilities to birth as women, and do our best to keep moms and babies safe when issues do arise (without looking for or making issues where there really aren’t any).

In birth, there are no rules, only guesses. That just might be why it’s such a fascinating and miraculous–and, yes, sometimes frustrating–thing. Fortunately, no matter what path a birthing takes, the end result of a precious and beautiful newborn baby is worth every moment of uncertainty.