B.A.N.I. Excerpts


Birthing As Nature Intended, (B.A.N.I.)™- Look Inside the book by scrolling down

Birthing As Nature Intended, (B.A.N.I.)™ - by Teresa L. Van-Zeller

What people are saying!

Suzanne Arms, Author, Birth Educator, Activist

“Bravo to Teresa Van-Zeller and her book, Birthing As Nature Intended, (B.A.N.I.) ™, for synthesizing both the physiological and psychological value of training our mind away from fear and toward relaxation and pleasure in birth.  I wish I had this book when I was teaching birthing classes.  Better yet, I wish I had it when I was preparing to give birth to my daughter 41 years ago.

Birth educators and doulas will find this book gives them valuable skills they can offer women and couples from every walk of life.  If nurse-midwives, nurses and obstetricians recommend this book to clients, they will see many more of them have natural, normal births and become confident mothers.”  Suzanne Arms: Author, Birth Educator, Activist

Lorne Campbell Sr. M.D.,

Physician Faculty Member, HypnoBirthing Institute (business partner)
“I have worked with Teresa Van-Zelller and am excited to help her Introduce Birthing as Nature Intended. This is a book and course for all women. Not just those that are pregnant . It is a course for living a healthy and balanced life.” May 24, 2011

 

Sharon LaMothe: Author – Amazon Review 5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Resource for All Women Who Desire to Experience a Natural, Relaxing Birth, June 25,

I read this book in less than 3 hours. Every page is packed with useful information and I just couldn't put it down. I loved the tips Teresa offers throughout the book especially the parts about having a birth plan and making sure you choose a doctor who supports what YOU want. She talks about expectations and how your body and mind react to what others may tell you. (ohhh the horror stories one hears while pregnant!)

I love Birthing As Nature Intended (B.A.N.I.)for Surrogates as well as for Intended Parents. Because I am a Surrogacy Consultant, I am always looking for information and guidance regarding pregnancy and labor for my clients. Birthing As Nature Intended allows a glimpse into the world of pregnancy and shares how birth can be an awesome, stress-free experience for everyone involved.

An interview with Dr. Michael Harris and Teresa Van-Zeller: to listen, copy and paste the following link in your browser:

http://mail.aol.com/36611-111/aol-6/en-us/mail/get-attachment.aspx?uid=32963304&folder=OldMail&partId=3&saveAs=teresa_van_zeller.mp3

Book Excerpts

Dedication

This book is dedicated to my children, Sheri and Anthony who spent the majority of their teenage years fending for themselves while I, as a single parent was either teaching baby classes or attending births, sometimes away from home for two and three days at a time.  They never once complained, always asked how everything went and whenever possible, had a cup of tea or a warm meal on the stove for me when I got home.  You are my grounding force and the loves of my life.  Thank you for your unconditional love and support.

I would like to acknowledge Marie “Mickey” Mongan who entrusted me with training practitioners for her own childbirth education program.  I always felt blessed to be able to teach so many knowledgeable and talented people while at the same time gaining such a wealth of knowledge and wisdom in return.  Because of the door that Mickey opened for my exploration, teaching has become one of the most rewarding and enjoyable passions in my life.  It was Mickey’s repeated comment to me that she wished that someone would just write a book about the normalcy of birth that inspired me to indeed write such a book.

Table of Contents

Forward

Introduction to B.A.N.I.

Chapter  1  The Normalcy of Birth

Chapter  2  Expectant Parents Want Normal Non-Medicated Births

Chapter  3  Why Then, Does Labor Hurt?

Chapter  4  Why is Labor So Medical?

Chapter  5  Take Responsibility For Your Birth

Chapter  6  Preparing Your Body-Mind-Spirit

Chapter  7  Make a Birth Plan

Chapter  8  What to Expect

Chapter  9  The Big Day Has Arrived

Chapter 10  Progress at Your Own Pace

Chapter 11  Some Births Do Not Go As Planned

Surveys

Stories

Epilogue

Guided Imagery and Visualization Techniques


Introduction to B.A.N.I.

This book is written for both the consumer and the obstetrical community.  It has become apparent that public opinion has changed dramatically in the way that expectant parents are receiving their information regarding childbirth education.  In the world of childbirth, the medical community and their consumers are beginning to come full circle in taking responsibility for achieving positive birth outcomes.  This is good news in a time when health care costs are rising and the majority of babies born in the United States are arriving in profit-centered hospitals.

In the beginning of the 20th century, over 95% of women were giving birth in the comfort of their homes surrounded and supported by their loved ones.  In the last 100 years the tide has turned and over 99% of babies are born outside the home in either hospitals or birthing centers.  Interestingly, the mortality rate for mothers or their babies has not increased even one percent.  I have attended several births where the parents were not always informed of the potential risks to both mother and child when certain drugs are administered.  As you read through these pages, you will see how some common interventions often are not medically indicated and as a consequence are overly used.

In 1970, the Cesarean section (“C‑section”) rate in the United States was 5% and by 1987 that rate had jumped to 25%.  In less than 20 years the birth of babies by way of major surgery went from 1 in 20 births to 1 in 4 births, even though the number of births each year remained fairly constant.  When you look at current statistics you will find that many hospitals have approached, and even surpassed, a 50% C‑section rate.  In the United States, C‑sections are now the most common major operation performed and the largest contributing factor to the rising healthcare costs and the health care crisis that we are currently faced with.

There are numerous books, research publications and articles available showing the potential risks to both mother and baby from common interventions and procedures that are routinely used when there is no medical indication.  This information is easily available to both the general public and the medical community and is far too vast to be covered in the scope of this book.

Readers of this book will learn how to have the calm and serene birth that every human being is entitled to.  Nature has supplied everything necessary to attain that goal.  You will find keys to learning how to obtain the most optimal birth experience for each individual.  In addition, you will learn that every mother and every baby are unique, having unique needs and circumstances, every one of which should to be taken into consideration.  As a result, there is no right or wrong way to have a baby, and certainly no one way to have a baby.  There is just the way that is right for the individual.

You will find this book easy to read and filled with techniques and exercises necessary to help you prepare your body and your baby for one of the most exciting journeys of your lives.  The muscles of the human body are miraculous and designed to work in perfect harmony for optimal performance.  Learning and practicing the techniques in this book will help laboring mothers to avoid, reduce or eliminate potential physiological responses caused by external influences and circumstances that could hinder the naturally harmonious functions of their bodies.  This book will help you recognize and hopefully avoid potential situations that may hinder those harmonious functions.  It will also give you tips on how to restore your body to a relaxed state in the event that your birth should happen to take a turn due to external influences.

Whether you are reading this book as an expectant parent excited about having the beautiful birth that you know you are entitled to, or as a medical caregiver looking to enhance your expertise in your field, I hope you will find this book both enlightening and enriching.

 

Chapter 1

The Normalcy of Birth

Having a baby is the most normal, natural, basic, physiological, and fundamental beginning of life.  Nature never intended for it to be painful.

That is a very strong statement to make and I do not make it lightly.  It is not a conclusion that I came to from my own personal birthing experiences.  I have two children, a daughter and a son, that were born in 1981 and 1983 respectively.  My birth experiences were not pleasurable.  In fact, my two birth experiences were extremely painful.  But I can also say that my birth experiences were exactly what I expected them to be.  With that being said, I came to the realization over the years that, indeed, my birth experiences were given to me.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I signed up for our childbirth preparation classes at the hospital where I was to have my baby.  Back then, Lamaze was the popular natural childbirth preparation class to take.  Medicated births had fallen out of fashion and I don’t remember ever being given the option of whether or not I wanted to have a natural childbirth.  I was told to sign up for the classes with my husband and that upon completion of the course my husband would get his certificate of completion and be allowed to be by my side for the birth of our baby.  If we refused to take the course, my husband would not be allowed into the labor or delivery room with me.  So, we did what we were told and signed up for our Lamaze classes.

When I walked into the first class, I was very excited and looking forward to learning more about this wonderful miracle that I was involved with.  I remember that class so vividly.  Our instructor was a registered nurse and my husband and I were one of 10 couples in the class.  I remember very clearly the first words that came out of the instructor’s mouth:  “Ladies, be prepared.  This is going to be the most excruciatingly painful experience of your life.  It is your right of passage into motherhood.  But I am going to teach you some breathing techniques to help you get through the pain.”

Now I have to say that the comments given to us by our instructor were more than a little distressing.  Before entering the class, I did not have many reservations or concerns about childbirth.  When I grew up, or at least in my family, we didn’t hear any birth stories.  It just wasn’t a topic that we talked about, so until I became pregnant, I never gave it much thought.  When I did get pregnant, I basically believed that birth was a pretty natural event.  After all, babies were born every day.

And just like that, within a few minutes of beginning our childbirth education program, our expectations were changed.  In four short sentences, my childbirth instructor managed to turn my expectation of childbirth, which up until that time was a somewhat natural event, into the expectation of an excruciatingly painful ordeal.

Over the weeks that followed, our instructor taught us various breathing techniques designed to help us get through the painful ordeal.  The first “coping mechanism” we were taught was the slow deep breathing for when the pains started.  And when the pains got worse, we were taught to focus on an object of our choice and while focusing on the object we would start the “hee-hee-whooo” type of breathing, which I now realize was a great way to hyperventilate.  The instructor then told us, “When the pain gets so bad that you feel like a train is running through your body at 160 miles per hour and you can’t stop it,” we would switch to a different type of breathing.  After the “train pain” description, you could have heard a pin drop in that classroom.  The moms were petrified and the dads were wondering how they were ever going to be forgiven for doing this to their wives.

It obviously was imperative that we take the task at hand seriously.  So as the “big day” neared, we practiced, focused and hee-hee-whoooed every day.  We could only hope that we would survive this terrible ordeal.  We continued to practice and prepare our bodies the best that we could and continued to wait anxiously.

There I was, 16 days past my due date, sitting at home on maternity leave, watching some talk show on TV waiting for the big day to arrive.  As I lay on the couch, I remember feeling a gurgling sensation in my lower abdomen and wondering if I ate something that didn’t agree with me.  I was not in pain; I just felt like maybe I was going to have to go to the bathroom.  I got up and attempted to go to the bathroom, but nothing happened.  I came back and settled into my talk show.  A few minutes later; I again experienced the gurgling sensation and once more I got up and attempted to go to the bathroom – but again, nothing.

I continued to get the gurgling sensations for about 2½ hours.  By this time, I was convinced that I had eaten something that didn’t agree with me.  Although it took me awhile, eventually I realized that these gurgling sensations were coming exactly 3½ minutes apart; you could set your watch by them.  The thought occurred to me that this may be the start of my labor even though I was in no pain.  Well, it was indeed the start of my labor and it was also at that exact moment that my labor started to hurt.  The pains continued to get worse until it became the most excruciatingly painful experience of my life.

Once we got to the hospital, the pains continued to get worse.  As the discomfort intensified, one thought that kept coming to me was, how could something this natural be like this?  I was, after all having a baby.  People have been having babies since the beginning of time.  How could nature, being so perfect in every other way, be like this?

I was at one time a pre-med student and my education included attending a lot of science and biology classes.  I tended to apply a somewhat scientific mentality to many aspects of life.  As I lay in that hospital bed in a great deal of pain, my mind wandered back to memories of my high school biology class.  I remembered learning about cells, and how nature had perfectly designed cells to be totally self sufficient.  A cell consists of many components including Mitochondria, Ribosomes, Cytoplasm and DNA to name a few.  The DNA is the location that contains the complete set of instructions for the formation of that individual life.  Without any conscious effort, a cell knows how to nourish itself, divide itself allowing one cell to become two, two cells to become four, etc.  The instructions are given to form a heart, a liver, a stomach, and all the other human organs.  From those same instructions a digestive system is formed, a respiratory system, a nervous system, etc.  Without any external assistance a perfect human being is formed.  Even conception takes place without any conscious effort—well, hopefully a little conscious effort.  All kidding aside, no one has to take the sperm and join it to the egg.  Nature does that naturally.  As the cells grow and form this perfect human being, nature also creates the perfect environment for this beautiful miracle.  The baby is kept safe and nourished for the duration of the pregnancy.  Nature does a perfect job of protecting this new life.

For the parents, the creation of this new life is the culmination of a beautiful union.  The process of conceiving this new life hopefully involves both a physically and emotionally pleasurable experience -- a sharing of love.  Sex is not something that two people do just to have a baby.  It is a beautiful, pleasurable experience.  We are sexual beings and sex feels good.  Having a baby is the epitome of that sexuality.

I have read in several books how intricate and perfect the whole birthing process is.  When one considers what is necessary for two cells to be able to come together and form this new little being, taking into account the necessary environmental conditions and everything else that must happen between the cells (the transport of information, the hormones, the neurological system, etc.), it is almost too much for the mind to comprehend.  And that is for the creation of just one person.  Consider this miraculous process that takes place to make one human being, and multiply that by the fact that it happens over and over again -- over two billion of these extraordinary creations currently thriving on this planet -- one has to appreciate just how miraculous the creation of life really is.

Once this joyous, pleasurable union occurs which allows this wondrous event to take place, nature once again takes over to nourish and protect the growth of this perfect little person.

How could nature in its infinite wisdom design this process to work so perfectly, and yet when the time comes for the baby to come out, design the actual birth process to “be an excruciatingly painful experience?”  How could something this beautiful, this natural, this perfect, suddenly become dysfunctional?  It just didn’t make sense.

And so, unbeknownst to me at the time, the seed had been planted that started me on my journey to one day becoming a childbirth educator -- a journey that has been the most exciting and fascinating path of my life.


Chapter 2

Expectant Parents Want
Normal Non-Medicated Births

Part of my life’s journey that led me to becoming a childbirth educator was becoming a Certified Hypnotherapist in 1998.  Hypnotherapy quickly became my passion.  When I realized how quickly and easily I could facilitate people to effect positive change in their lives, I knew this was my calling.

As I began working with more and more clients, I started thinking about other ways that hypnosis could be used.  I worked with clients with many various issues, the most common of which were stress reduction, weight reduction and smoking cessation.  But I had also worked with several clients for pain management (only after first obtaining a referral from the client’s doctor).

When working with pain management clients, it is necessary to get a doctor referral since pain is given to us for a reason.  Pain alerts the body that something is wrong.  Although one can use hypnosis to greatly reduce, or even eliminate pain, you never want to eliminate the pain without first making sure that there is no physiological reason for it.

When my neighbor asked me to help her get rid of the pain that she was suffering from  migraine headaches that were recurring more frequently, had I assisted in alleviating her pain without first requiring that she obtain a medical referral, her brain tumor might never have been detected.  But in most instances, after the client meets and confers with the doctor, if no physiological reason for the pain is found, with the doctor’s referral, I can then work with the client to help them manage their pain.

As I worked with more pain management clients, it occurred to me that hypnosis would certainly be beneficial for expectant women to help manage their labor pains.  After all, major surgeries, including open heart surgeries, C‑sections, amputations, etc., have been successfully performed on thousands of patients without any anesthesia using only hypnosis.  We can use hypnosis to turn off sensations if we choose.  Many people can have root canals performed without so much as a shot of Novocain and feel no pain whatsoever.  With this in mind, I started my search to become educated on learning hypnosis techniques to help women manage their labor pains.

I started searching on the Internet looking for anything related to hypnosis and childbirth.  I came upon the HypnoBirthing® Institute website.  I believe there are no coincidences in life.  When I called their phone number, I was happy to find that they had scheduled their very first practitioner training in Santa Barbara, California which is only a 1½ hour drive from where I live.  I signed up for the training that same day.  I looked forward to finally learning techniques that would help pregnant moms to have less painful births.  I fully expected that I would be learning new techniques to help mothers “get through the pain” or “refocus away from the pain.”

As I sat through the training, it became apparent very quickly that my expectations of the class were quite different from what the course was teaching.  Instead of learning techniques to help women get through the pain, or refocus away from the pain, I was learning an entire philosophy that suggested that if a mother kept her body relaxed, then nature never intended for there to be any pain.

At first I wondered what in the world had I gotten myself into.  After all, everyone knew that childbirth was painful.  Every story I had ever heard, every movie I had ever seen, depicted laboring women screaming and writhing in pain.  My own two birthing experiences only confirmed for me that childbirth was painful, very painful.  But I sat patiently through the training, and as the hours passed, I realized that none of the information that I was receiving was hard to swallow.  In fact, I came to the conclusion that what was being taught seemed to make perfect sense.  Having a baby was really the most natural event in the world.  Nature is miraculous and has been handling birth since the very beginning of time.

When I finished that course, my entire belief of what natural childbirth should be like had been completely transformed; well almost completely.  Everything that I had learned that weekend really did make sense -- I believed that with all my heart.  Unfortunately, up to that point in my life, I had only witnessed four births and all of them were difficult.  The first two births (my own) were both extremely uncomfortable.  The other two births were the births of my sister’s child and my best friend’s fourth child, both of which resulted in C‑sections.

I am not the type of person that needs to experience something for myself to believe that it is possible.  Not only did birth not have to be painful, it could be pleasurable.  What a concept.  This was great news.  I was excited and ready to go forth and teach women about beautiful, natural birthing.

I could hardly wait to begin this wonderful journey.  I had taken the practitioner training course in May of 1999 and signed up my first couple to take my childbirth preparation course that following September.

About one week before I started teaching my first couple, I received a telephone call from one of my accounting clients.  (I also happen to have a thriving bookkeeping practice.)  This client called to inform me that “Dateline” was airing a segment that evening about using hypnosis during childbirth.  It was a wonderful segment that added validity to what I had learned thus far.  I was very happy with the show and the reality of what I had just seen.  How it would affect the general public was made apparent to me the very next day.  Life ceased to exist as I once new it.

When I walked into my office the following morning, as usual, the telephone message light was flashing away.  However, when I saw that there were 17 unheard messages on my hypnosis line and it was only 9:00 in the morning, I was certainly surprised.

When Dateline aired the program, the Dateline website received thousands of emails inquiring about how and where people could learn more about using hypnosis with the birth of their babies.  Dateline surfed the internet searching for an organization that taught birthing classes using hypnosis.  The site that came up was the HypnoBirting® website.  Dateline created a link on their website forwarding all inquiries to the HypnoBirthing® Institute.  Because I was one of the only HypnoBirthing® Practitioners in Southern California at the time, the Institute directed hundreds of inquiries about the program to me.

Before teaching my first class, I had signed up an additional 17 couples by the end of the day.  The calls continued to increase and to keep up with the demand I started holding six classes a week, each class having five to six couples in attendance.  It was obviously apparent that people, a lot of people, wanted options other than the medically managed births that had become commonplace in the U.S.

I was teaching classes Monday through Thursday nights and two additional classes on Saturday.  The Saturday classes were reserved for couples that had to travel long distances of more than two hours.  I had people traveling in from San Diego, San Jose, and even Canada.  It was absolutely surreal.  I remember teaching those classes, looking into the eyes of ten to twelve faces at a time thinking to myself, “Gosh I hope this works.  I really hope this works.”

I did not for one instant feel that I was misleading these people.  After all, everything I was teaching in the program made sense.  However, it wasn’t until I started personally attending the actual births of my clients that I got to appreciate what a magnificent experience birth was.  On many occasions I saw for myself that beautiful, calm, serene births were possible.  These births were not at all like my own birthing experiences.  Instead of hearing comments such as “Don’t touch me,” or “Just get away from me, and let me get through this,” which is how I had experienced birthing, many of these moms and dads were hugging each other and cuddling together with the lights dimmed and soft music playing in the background as they welcomed their beautiful little cherubs into the world.  These laboring mothers allowed me or their husbands to massage them as they continued to get progressively more relaxed, and at times their births actually seemed almost spiritual.  The babies being born were not crying and screaming, but emerging from their mothers’ bodies, sometimes with their eyes wide open, calm and content, just checking out their new environment.

I quickly realized that these calm births were the way birth was intended to be.  I was observing these births with my own eyes over and over again and was determined to understand why some of my clients had what I referred to as textbook births while others did not.  I developed an insatiable quest to find as much information as I could about pain free or at least more comfortable birthing.  I read books, articles and everything else I could get my hands on at the time.

Interestingly, I talked to several women around my age, born in the 1950’s and early 1960’s and was surprised to learn that it was not uncommon for some doctors to use hypnosis with their patients for childbirth back then.  Most of those doctors eventually abandoned the use of hypnosis with their obstetric patients because quite frankly, they could see more patients in their practice each day by leaving the childbirth preparation training to others.  But there was no denying that hypnosis worked.  The mothers I talked to were still raving about it 50 years later.

As I researched the various childbirth preparation programs that have been taught since the early part of the last century, such as The Bradley Method, Lamaze, HypnoBirthing®, etc., I noticed one thing that they all shared in common.  Every program emphasized the importance of the mother’s relaxation to achieve a pain free or more comfortable birth.  One only needs to turn once again towards nature and study how almost every other mammal on this planet births their offspring to see that this concept makes sense.  Most other mammals, when birth is eminent, will find a safe place to nest and will simply release their birth over to the natural birthing process once again affirming that relying on nature will get the job done quite efficiently.

The techniques used to teach the mother this most necessary component of relaxation varies from program to program.  Some programs use guided imagery and visualization techniques, others use meditation techniques, self-talk or self-hypnosis to achieve the desired goal.  B.A.N.I. classes are totally client centered.  The techniques are designed to incorporate each client’s own innate abilities and skills to enhance each individual’s results.  Techniques and exercises need to be flexible because no specific structured technique is going to work for all of the people all of the time.

I am going to let you in on a little secret.  Guided imagery, visualization, meditation, or self-talk are all various forms of hypnosis.  The terms relaxation and hypnosis are oftentimes synonymous.  One does not have to be relaxed to go into hypnosis, but every time someone goes into hypnosis, the natural byproduct is relaxation.  Keep this in mind so that the next time you find yourself lost in your thoughts while gazing into a roaring fire, or allowing yourself to become engrossed while watching a good movie or entranced while listening to a beautiful musical performance, realize that you are indeed experiencing a state of hypnosis, or relaxation.  Also realize that whatever you normally do in your day to day life to help you relax, will also be a potential technique for you to use to help you stay relaxed during labor.

As a result of the feedback that I have received over the years from several of my clients, many of whom work in the medical profession, I have found that some people are hesitant to refer their clients or recommend their friends to a program that includes the use of the term hypnosis in their childbirth preparation classes.  Birthing as Nature Intended™, or B.A.N.I.™ classes, teach relaxation techniques using guided imagery and visualization that will help every mother, and birth companion to achieve the deepest levels of relaxation.  In addition, the program will incorporate each individual’s unique natural talents and past experiences to facilitate the quickest and most direct avenue to get them there.

I began to trust nature and nature’s way of birthing.  After teaching thousands of people about the normalcy of birth and attending over 100 of those births as of this writing, I saw for myself over and over again just how natural and beautiful birthing not only can be, but actually “should be.”  When I teach B.A.N.I. classes, I now look every one of my expectant Moms and Dads in the eyes and tell them that birth is not something to be feared, as I had experienced, but rather something to look forward to with excitement.  I truly believe that expectant parents should be preparing to have the most incredible, awesome experience of their lives.

It breaks my heart that even today, with all of the knowledge that we have access to, the majority of birth preparation classes are still preparing parents for the incredibly painful ordeal of birth.  Parents are taught about drug options.  They are being prepared for scheduled C‑sections, inductions, and all the various possible interventions.  They are still being taught everything that can possibly go wrong with birth and all the technologies and options available to “fix” the situations.

I inform my clients that when it comes to birthing, I am not against the use of drugs or interventions as long as there is a medical necessity.  I have attended several births where I was certainly thankful that we have the advanced medical technology to step in when necessary.  But it is important to remember that in most birthing situations, having a baby really is a normal and natural beginning of life.  I teach them that nature and their bodies know exactly what they need to do and exactly when they need to do it.  I also suggest to them that when they trust their bodies and nature, keeping their bodies relaxed to allow nature to guide the way, oftentimes it will not even occur to them to ask for drugs or an epidural.  Nothing is more normal and natural than having a baby.

Childbirth is not about doctors, nurses, or hospitals.  It’s about mothers and fathers and babies.  When you trust your body, your body will know what to do.  Women’s laboring bodies are not broken and do not need to be fixed.  Their bodies need to be relaxed so that nature can perform its role easily and efficiently.  How in the world did we ever manage to have babies before medical technology and interventions arrived?  How did we ever manage to have babies before doctors and hospitals came into existence?  How were the first doctors ever born without the assistance of other doctors?

Considering all the responses to the Dateline program, it became obvious that women want options.  There will always be women that will opt straight for an epidural to avoid the trauma and fear that they anticipate and associate with childbirth (even though the anticipation is almost always much worse than the reality.)  There are also times when an intervention will be beneficial or necessary for the mother.  For those women, the options are certainly available and appreciated.

I do, however, encourage parents to talk to their caregiver ahead of time about any options they may be considering.  If, for whatever reason, a laboring woman is experiencing excessive discomfort or a complication that requires medication or an epidural, it would certainly be advantageous for the mother to be aware of any risks or potential side effects of that intervention before she goes into labor.  Waiting until the mother is in pain or frightened is, in my opinion, the least conducive environment to be asking the laboring woman to sign an informed consent document stating that she understands all the potential risks involved.  Thankfully, more parents are realizing that many medical interventions carry certain risks, especially when they are not medically necessary.  Most of the time birth is not a medical event and as more people appreciate that childbirth is a natural experience, they are also learning that less intervention is usually more efficient.

Women do not need to take a childbirth preparation class to have a natural, more comfortable birth.  Nature automatically provides the means to that end.  There are however, several benefits to attending childbirth preparation classes.

The opportunity of seeing the exercises and techniques actually demonstrated in class will ensure that the parents are properly performing them when they are practicing.  In addition, watching videos of women having calm peaceful births and hearing actual testimonials about women who have achieved the beautiful births they wanted, helps parents build confidence as well as release any negative stories, fears and expectations they may have previously embraced.  These negative stories and expectations have contributed to making medically managed birth more easily accepted and expected.

When attending group classes, it is both reassuring and fun for “parents to be,” to share this joyful time of their lives with other couples that are going through similar emotions and experiences.  A lot of additional information will be acquired from discussions that take place as a result of the questions being asked by the other class participants.

The greatest benefit will be having the opportunity to ask all of the questions that will inevitably come up, both during class time and continuing throughout their pregnancy.  The instructor is a valuable resource to help answer questions that may arise at future appointments with the caregiver.

Although I prefer teaching group classes, being located in Los Angeles, a lot of my clients work in the entertainment industry which sometimes creates a conflict between my classes and their work schedules.  Private classes are always an available option.  Several B.A.N.I. instructors actually choose to teach private classes to individual couples which can allow for more time to address specific issues that may pertain only to the individual clients.

 

Chapter 11

Some Births Do Not Go As Planned

I remember when I first started attending the births of my clients back in 1999.  I was experiencing what is referred to as Murphy’s Law.  Labors were incredibly long for various reasons.  I was married at the time and was attending my third or fourth birth when I called home to tell my husband that once again, I would be detained for an indefinite period of time.  His response to me was, “But I don’t understand, don’t these women understand the rules?”  Now my husband had never attended a birth before.  Though his remark was sincere, I told him what would become another of my future mantras when teaching subsequent childbirth preparation classes:  “When it comes to labor, there are no rules.”

Long ago women gave birth in their own comfortable surroundings with their own loved ones and trusted caregivers present, caregivers with little formal training but plenty of hands on experience (usually a midwife).  During labor, these caregivers would stay close by to be on hand if needed.  After the birth, the caregivers would help the mother, baby and family in whatever way they were needed.  If you were to look up the word “obstetrics” in Webster’s New World Dictionary, it is defined as:  midwife, lit., she who stands before < ob- (see OB-)+ stare, to STAND] of childbirth or obstetrics.

Birth was a natural process until it became a profit-centered business.  When it became a business, it became dangerous.  It had to become dangerous, otherwise, why would a laboring woman need a professional doctor if not to protect her from the dangers of birth?  So now the majority of women’s births are attended by obstetricians.  Unfortunately, most doctors are not trained to “stand by and watch,” remaining close at hand in case they are needed.  Doctors are trained to “fix things” and make people better.  It would not make sense for doctors to get involved with childbirth unless there was something to fix.  Therefore birth became broken.  I have found one thing that has become increasingly apparent, the fallacy that childbirth is something to be feared because so many things can go wrong.

I must certainly agree that there are times when a birth can take a turn and become a medical situation.  I have attended births on occasion where situations arose and I was thankful that we had the medical technology available to assist both mother and baby to help insure a healthy outcome for all concerned.  That is all well and good but in too many of those instances, even though I am not medically trained, I could foresee those complications arising as a direct result of the unnecessary interventions that had already taken place for that birth.

But current cultural conditioning is preparing most expectant parents that too many things can go wrong during labor and therefore childbirth needs to be approached with caution.  Parents are taught in some childbirth preparation classes about all the options available for pain management but the emphasis is on the need to use them.  Many classes prepare parents on what to expect if having a C‑Section, with some instructors actually showing the medical tools that are used during the surgery.  No wonder so many parents approach the upcoming birth of their child with fear.  Once fear is created, an intervention will often be accepted, which will oftentimes cause the next series of concerns leading to the next series of interventions, and so on and so forth.

I read an article many years ago that explained how quickly and easily an ordinary event can be turned into a major ordeal simply by changing the perception of that event.  Indulge me to go off topic for a moment to illustrate my point.

Consider the following:  Imagine if you were to take a plank of wood, perhaps 18 inches wide and 20 feet long and lay it on the ground from one side of the street to the other.  It would be easy to imagine the task of walking across the plank of wood from one side of the street to the other without falling off of it.  If someone were to offer you $1,000 to walk across the plank without falling off of it, you may possibly take the bet.

But what if the stakes were raised?  If that same plank of wood was securely balanced with its ends on two posts so that the plank was raised 5 feet above the ground, would you still take the bet?  You may still take the bet but perhaps you would not be quite as confident about it.  At the very least, you would use a little more caution while maneuvering across the board.

Let’s raise the stakes even higher.  What if the plank is placed securely on top of two buildings so that it is raised 20 feet above the ground?  Would you feel the same confidence that you would collect on the bet without injury?  Most people would find it difficult to imagine successfully walking across that same plank because now the thought would occur that they could fall off in the process, get hurt and perhaps even die.  The mere thought of actually attempting the task would, in most instances, make it impossible for the individual to gather the courage to take even the first step.  The large sum of money being offered would probably not even be considered.

My point of this analogy is to show how a normal task can be turned into a terrifying life and death experience simply by raising the stakes or suggesting a change in perception of that task.  Think about the simplicity of the actual task at hand in this example.  It is a plank of wood and the task at hand, walking from one end of the plank to the other, is the same in each scenario.  However, as the stakes are increased, the task becomes more difficult, almost unimaginable, to even attempt.  In the first scenario, the plank of wood is safely on the ground.  For most people walking across the plank would be simple.  In fact, some people would probably be able to run across the plank and successfully get to the other side without missing a step.  Of course, even if someone crossing the plank were to miss a step, they would simply get back on the plank and continue walking to the other side.  With the third scenario, however, even though the task is identical in all but one way, the height at which the plank is placed, the individual allows himself to entertain the idea that “If I miss one step, I could surely fall and possibly even die.”  For those choosing to make an attempt at crossing to the other side, most would be somewhat nervous or scared.  Each step would be slow and shaky with no sense of relief until they arrived safely on the other side.  For many people, no amount of money would warrant the risk of possible injury or death and for them, the journey would never be taken.

Today’s culture has taken the most natural task in the world, giving birth, and raised the stakes to a frightening level.  The suggestions given to people in our current birthing culture, whether received through the media or from people we look to for education and guidance, are continually changing our perception of birth.  The most damaging comments are those suggesting that any wrong step could cause certain peril to the mother or the baby, or even both.

I was recently asked by a woman to be present at the birth of her second child.  Her first child had been delivered by what she believed was an unnecessary C‑Section.  She wanted me present to insure that no interventions would be introduced the second time around.  She had attended a childbirth preparation class taught by a different instructor.  Although my policy has always been to attend births only for my own clients, I agreed to attend the birth, but only as support.  I explained to her about not being a medical provider and told her I would not get involved in making any medical decisions.

I was surprised when the women told me what day to show up at the hospital for her induction since she was having a VBAC (vaginal birth after a C‑Section) and Pitocen is usually not an option with VBACs.  When I arrived at the hospital, I was asked by the nurse to step out of the room.  This was the first time I had ever been requested to leave while the initial intake information was being requested of the mother from the nurse.  I was only out of the room for five minutes and when I returned, the mother told me that the doctor was going to come in and start the Pitocen and rupture her membranes to get things moving.  In addition, the nurse was telling her that she may as well get the epidural now, because if she waited too long, then it would be too late to get it later.

I was shocked.  This was a woman who was so insistent on wanting a natural birth with absolutely no interventions, and here she was agreeing to Pitocen, rupturing of her membranes and an epidural.  She had completely abandoned everything she so adamantly wanted for her birth experience.  Within less than five minutes, the fear was in place.

Fortunately, after a few minutes of discussion, the mother realized that if Pitocen was agreed to, then why would she also have to have her membranes ruptured, which starts the clock ticking for potential infection.  Although she agreed to the Pitocen, she decided to decline any further interventions.  As it turned out, the women’s labor had already spontaneously started and she was having regular contractions four minutes apart.  The Pitocen was administered even though her labor had naturally begun.

Within 20 minutes of administering the Pitocen, her body had a very negative reaction to the drug and the Pitocen was immediately turned off.  She declined other interventions and she proceeded to labor quite naturally on her own, and more importantly, at her own pace.  She ultimately had the beautiful birth she envisioned.  I am pleased that we will never know how her birth would have played out had the other interventions been administered.

Too many parents continue to be taught that birth is a risky business with frequent suggestions of potential dangers that most likely will never happen.  One simple step off course will be conceived as a major danger.  Instead, birth should be presented as the normal, natural event that it is.   At the very least, if a decision is made that causes the mother to take a detour, it does not have to be a big deal.  She can simply get back on route and continue to her destination.

Of course there will be times when detours (interventions) will be necessary and sometimes even advantageous.  If a mother is fearful, nervous or experiencing discomfort, she may indeed receive benefit when offered something to “take the edge off.”  The intervention may be all that mother needs to help her to relax enough to avoid an epidural or at least delay having to receive one until her labor is progressed enough that the epidural will not slow it down or stall it.  As I mentioned earlier, very few things in life are black and white.  In nature nothing is black and white.  When decisions need to be made, they do not have to be made with an “all or nothing” attitude.  When women are no longer taught to fear birth, but instead to look forward to it, and more importantly to trust the birthing process, then, and only then, will childbirth go back to being the normal, natural event that it has always been.

Even if a decision has to be made that may detour the parents from their original course, they will have their questions answered first and will feel confident with the decision that they make.  That decision will not mean that everything from that point on must be different.  It just means it was necessary to step off course a bit, a temporary detour.  Hopefully the detour will safely re-route them around the present concern and lead them right back on track so they can finish the journey.

It is important that parents learn to ask questions so informed decisions can be made while keeping “the big picture” in mind.  There is nothing more special than the birth of a baby and parents only get one chance with each child to make it the birth that they envision.  One of my favorite quotes is “The journey is far better than the destination.”  When it comes to childbirth, the journey should be just as miraculous as the destination.

Trust in the miracle of birth.

***Birthing As Nature Intended, (B.A.N.I.)™, is THE "must have" book for all expectant parents.  In addition to being part of the B.A.N.I.™ natural childbirth preparation program, it is an excellent resource book to add for all childbirth preparation programs, hospitals, birthing centers, and retail stores.  Ask about wholesale bulk order discounts available to childbirth educators for books and cd's.*** (CA retailers must have resale number).

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