Telling Birth Stories is always a bit difficult. In part #1 of this series of ‘What about me in my pregnancy/birth?’,  we learned that the very best question to ask when labour was not progressing but there are irritating contractions is ‘What do you want to do now?’

Birthing Better families also learned that most birth stories were composed of three elements when there should be four. This fourth element was so important yet no one even seems to be aware that there’s a fourth element! How could that be? How could an element that is so important be missing from almost all Birth Stories? What we don’t know we often don’t know we don’t know.

Here are the present 3 elements that most women talk about in their Birth Stories

  1. Temporal‘My labour started at 3 pm. My water broke at 8:30. I started to push at 6:00 am. My baby was born at 9:07 am’.
  2. What they did to me‘I was told to push and didn’t feel like it.’ Or ‘I wish someone had told me how to push, I didn’t know how’. Or ‘My midwife/doctor was at another birth.’ Or ‘I couldn’t have done it without my doctor/midwife.’
  3. What I felt‘I had such a bad backache’. Or ‘I pushed for hours’. Or ‘My birth was so fast.’

Very, very rarely will you hear a woman talk about the skills she used? Almost never do you hear a father talk about the skills used to help the birthing woman cope and manage her birth experience? When you do hear a woman talk about skills you often just hear women say: ‘I just relaxed’ Or ‘I just breathed’. How does that translate to you? Can you replicate these skills for your birth? Do you feel ‘relaxing’ or ‘breathing’ in someone else’s birth could not help in your birth?

Sadly that’s not enough information about how to birth. And the first three points aren’t always something we can control. So, if you want to feel in control of your birth … then have your own set of birth and birth-coaching skills. This really is a vitally important and missing element of childbirth preparation.

So ‘What about …. ‘ this next birth story? It’s important for all of you to really understand that The Pink Kit skills (now known as Birthing Better online birth courses) were developed by hundreds of ordinary mothers and fathers just like you! If you’re pregnant you have a 100% chance of giving birth. The only constant is what you can do for yourself … your behaviour and how you act as your birth unfolds.

Not mysterious

Birth may be unknowable and can’t be practiced but it does unfold and you can control how you breathe in and how you breathe out. If you don’t think that’s important then you are not acknowledging the term most associated with childbirth … ‘labour’. If you ‘labour’ it’s bloody hard work! And if you don’t think your breathing changes when you do hard work, then you need to go out and do some and remind yourself that hard labour changes how you behave. Now add PAIN!  You absolutely must learn great birth and birth-coaching breathing skills if nothing else. We have two great lessons: Directed Breathing and Sustainable, Usable and Adaptable Breathing.

Learning how to use your breath well in labour is just one of your Pink Kit skills. For all of you who will have a cesarean delivery … don’t be passive like at a dentist’s office … enjoy giving birth … use your Pink Kit skills. Birth is birth no matter how yours unfolds. You are having a baby not a type of birth. There is a huge amount of time for you to use great breathing skills on the way to the hospital, while being prepped and during surgery, if you’re having an elective Caesarean section. You deserve and are entitled to feeling empowered by the experience. Empowerment comes from what we do for ourselves … knowing we’ve accomplished a participatory task … job well done.

Birth Story #2 and breathing

This couple was having their first baby. There was a mature couple and had waited many years before getting pregnant. They were keen to do everything ‘right’. ‘What about …’their birth preparation?

  • They interviewed quite a number of doctors and midwives before choosing one.
  • They read heaps of childbirth books. Yes, the father did too. They often sat in bed at night each reading a different book or sharing a chapter they liked. They enjoyed spending this time together and becoming informed.
  • They attended two different sets of childbirth classes. One in hospital and a private one geared toward families choosing ‘natural birth’.
  • And they purchased a Pink Kit Package.

‘What about …. ‘ their birth? First, they chose to birth in their local hospital. Her labour progressed in a very average manner. This is what she said about her experience.

‘The labour pains were very manageable. When I learned about the 5 Phases of each contraction, I realized I always had a choice at different periods of each. So in Phase #1 … just as the contraction was starting, I put in place my Directed Breathing. It was great and I found I could handle every contraction even as they became more intense. After several hours, I was quite amazed that all the painful stories I’d heard from my friends just weren’t happening in my birth. So I wondered if the breathing didn’t matter. So I decided at the next contraction to just ‘breathe’ rather than set up using my Directed Breathing. Oh my god, the contraction was so painful I couldn’t believe it. I just lost the plot! Absolutely overwhelmed me. I totally lost control.’

‘What about … ‘ her husband? This is what he said.

‘My wife was absolutely amazing. We noticed that everything we had learned in both our childbirth preparation classes didn’t seem to give us the depth and breadth of skills that The Pink Kit Package gave us. We used those skills exclusively. I could tell that my wife was coping well with the contractions. They were obviously progressing. They were getting longer and more intense. I could see how much harder her uterus was working. My job was to stay aware of what she was doing but she really didn’t need me. Suddenly, out of nowhere she just lost it. I’ve never, ever seen her change so fast and I didn’t have a clue what was happening. For hours she had seemed so able to deal with the labour pains and then …. For a split second, I thought maybe there was a sudden emergency. But the midwife didn’t seem to be concerned. All of this took a split second to realize. For some reason, she had lost control.’

‘What about …’ all of this?

Well, two things happened. The first thing was what the father did. He quickly, internally assessed the situation. His wife was out of control. The midwife seemed to not care or it didn’t phase her so he figured this was a normal part of labour. But he also didn’t want his wife to suffer and he didn’t want her to remember giving birth as being an out of control experience. So he immediately began to work with her with the skills they had learned together.

By the time he started to help, this first contraction was finished and there was a space in between. He also remembered the 5 Phases of contractions (another lesson in Birthing Better Childbirth Preparation Online Course) which had really helped him understand that there was always, always some time in each contraction to help.

But he found his wife very hard to reach. She was still out of control and obviously afraid of the next contraction as well. He tried to get her attention, tried using the Directed Breathing, using calming Touch and giving her guidance as to where she could relax but she didn’t respond.

Then she had another contraction and was still out of control. But he never gave up. He worked and worked with her. He said she was very hard to reach.

‘What about … ‘ the woman? This is what she said after the birth.

‘What frightened me the most was that it took me 4-5 contractions to get back on top of the pain. My husband was absolutely incredible. He just calmly worked with me. He kept encouraging me to breathe with him. He used the common language we learned as a way to guide me to relaxing in specific areas. He used the deep touch which was very reassuring. Eventually, I began to calm down. I realized that just letting contractions happen was not going to work for me. No wonder so many of my friends had felt so overwhelmed and hated birth. They didn’t have any skills! But I did! And I started to use my skills again with my husband. Before I had been coping well on my own, but now I needed my husband to help me and he did. No doubt I could not have done the birth without him. I did get back on top and kept my focus throughout the rest of the birth. It was terrific. I just can’t imagine how women do labour without these skills. I know I read heaps of good books, spent lots of time with my midwife discussing things and went to two classes … and one on natural birth. None of these sources taught me anything about what to do!’

Her husband also said this:

‘ You know you can never get inside someone else’s head. I had no idea my wife was setting up her breathing at the beginning of each contraction. In fact, I didn’t have a clue which if any skills she was using. She didn’t talk to me so for hours I just stayed with her. I thought I was supposed to coach her but I found myself not even supporting her. This doesn’t mean I felt bored or anything. I just didn’t have a clue how to help. She didn’t look like she needed any help so that’s what labour was like. But when she lost it, I certainly had my task cut out for me. I had no idea that she had consciously made a decision to stop using her skills. From one moment to the next she went from being calm and centered to be out of control. So I just kept on using some of The Pink Kit skills. I didn’t even know if they were helping for the first two contractions but slowly she did start to respond. By the 5th or 6th contraction, she was on top of the pain again and stayed that way throughout the remaining labour and birth of our son’.

Lessons learned

There are so many lessons.

  • What goes on inside someone’s head is impossible to know unless they tell you.
  • How a woman is behaving or acting may or may not give you a clue about what she is thinking.
  • If she’s coping just stay paying attention. The only thing happening is birth … don’t let your attention wander to far.
  • If she needs help, don’t give up.

‘What about …’ birth stories are more about what is happening inside us and how we are responding to the experience in the right here, right now of childbirth.

Birthing Better online birth classes that are full of great birth skills are housed in Common Knowledge Trust.