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  • “A mother's joy begins when new life is stirring inside, when a tiny heartbeat is heard for the very first time, and a playful kick reminds her that she is never done.”

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The “perfect” birth

Letting Go of the ‘Perfect’ Birth

by Lindsey Seger  (Chapter Leader, ICAN of Nashville and Vice President, ICAN)

I’ve listened to a lot of women tell their birth stories over the years. Some are joyful, some are tragic, some are traumatic, all are dramatic and moving. Every woman has her own perspective on what happened to her. I love hearing birth stories.

I do NOT love hearing a woman blame herself for her birth or describing her birth as a “failure”.

Nashville Birth PhotographerNewsflash: Birth is not a pass/fail proposition. There is no guarantee that if you do this list of things, you will get the birth outcome of your dreams. The outcome of the birth is out of your hands so you can’t possibly “succeed” or “fail” at it. Birth is a gamble. It’s risky. Moms may look at the different methods and settings and providers and philosophies and choose which set of risks she wants to play. She may even be able to stack the deck in her favor, but she still has to play whatever hand she’s dealt when the labor starts.

Add to that: there is no perfect birth. The birth I would deem ‘perfect’ would not necessarily thrill the woman next to me. Birth has a wide spectrum of possibility. One woman’s ideal is an unattended homebirth. Another woman’s ideal would be a scheduled cesarean with all the logistics planned out in advance. Both are aghast at the other’s opinion. This is a bit like weddings. Some want a giant extravaganza event, and some want an intimate elopement in the mountains. Why the huge difference? Because they are different women with different stories and values and concerns.

And, much like weddings, it is likely that something will not go as planned during the course of a birth. Regardless of the ideal the woman is striving for or the particular outcome of the birth, how she is treated at these times becomes, I believe, the seeds of the failure/success complex.  A woman who feels like she is being treated honestly and that her choices are being respected is much more likely to come out the other side calling her birth a “success” whether it ended in a vaginal birth or a cesarean. A woman who feels blindsided, manipulated, and her wishes ignored will more likely call her birth traumatic or a “failure”.

So much about the actual birth is out of your hands. You can’t control when the labor starts or how much traffic is on the road at the crucial moment. You can’t control whether your water breaks before contractions begin or not. You don’t get to decide in advance whether it’s an easy five hour labor or a grueling 45 hour marathon. What you can control is how you prepare your body, how you educate yourself, and who you hire to assist you. You can only do what you can do. Educate yourself, treat your body right with good food and exercise, make the best decisions you can with the knowledge you have at the time. Give your best birth your best shot and don’t have regrets about the stuff that’s out of your hands.

It may be dubious comfort now, but trust me that every birth is a growing experience for the mom. Even moms who have several births under their belts learn something new from a new arrival. We learn about ourselves, about our partner, about power and vulnerability, about safety and sacrifice. So try not to get hung up on a having a ‘perfect’ birth or the ‘right’ birth. Birth is not right or wrong, pass or fail. Birth is a process, an experience. And that’s more than enough.


 The International Cesarean Network, Inc. (ICAN) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesearean recovery, and promoting vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). For information about local ICAN chapters and events, check the ICAN website
April 13, 2015 - 8:24 am

Robel - I am 4 months preangnt. I had always been of the mindset that if there are drugs that can ease pain, they should be taken immediately. Over the last few weeks I had started thinking that I would like to look into natural childbirth. I got The Business of Being Born through Netflix and my husband and I watched it together.I disagree 100% that the ending/editing ruined the show. We’ve seen enough surgical or hospital births with supine screaming women on Discovery Channel. The intended audience is people who don’t think birth is a natural process that a woman can experience without intervention. Focusing from the beginning on these calm, beautiful homebirths was amazing and convinced us. My husband had to rewind the movie & watch again, because he didn’t believe that this calm woman just reached down in the water & pulled her own baby to her chest.Towards the end, I still had nagging worries about what if something bad happens, and that’s when they showed how a competent midwife helped the laboring mother to the hospital. The timline/order of the stories is what convinced me to go for natural birth, and to start researching on the internet, which brought me across your site & hypnobabies. If they had shown the hospital birth at the beginning, I would probably have tuned it out as being just another this is what they do to you birth movie.[]

Birth doesn’t need to be feared

By guest blogger, Ann Marie Walsh of Second Heartbeat Childbirth Education


Fear. The four-letter-word we feel so often in pregnancy, labor, and delivery. What we don’t know is how often fear can play a large part in that same pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

Women grow up hearing the ‘horror’ stories of our families, friends, neighbor, and random person at the grocery store – the crazy number of hours they were in labor, how terrible the pain was, the traumatizing conclusion of the birth, etc.

The women sharing these experiences don’t stop to think about how these ‘inspiring’ stories may be setting up the expecting mother with her own set of expectations.

These external sources aren’t the only fear affecting the soon-to-be mother. Environmental and even the subconscious can leave it’s own impression.

Ina May Gaskin describes environmental fear the best in the Guide to Childbirth. She goes into detail about her ‘Law of Sphincter’. Gaskin explains how the cervix is just another sphincter like the rectum and can open or close when facing an environment that isn’t hospitable. This is easy to believe when a woman who is not comfortable can reverse dilation until the situation resolves itself.

Nashville birth photography-2The subconscious fear is even more difficult. It isn’t always clear-cut with the cause or resolution! I experienced this type of fear with my second labor and birth. My first ended in a cesarean when I wasn’t able to dilate past 4cm. I believed I was mentally prepared for my second labor. I had prepared my birth preferences for either the vaginal delivery or a repeat cesarean. I had attended birth classes, changed providers and hired a doula. I had processed my previous birth and knew the cause so it wouldn’t happen in this one as well. When I went into labor, I was progressing fairly slowly. In about eight hours I dilated 4cm. However, when my provider examined me and told me I was 5cm, I cried. I knew, no matter what else happened, that I had achieved something by getting further than with my first. In the next hour and forty-five minutes, I managed to go from that 5cm to pushing and holding my new baby.

Looking back, I believe, no matter how prepared I THOUGHT I was, my subconscious was still stuck. When I cried, I think that was the emotional release my body needed to finally let go of all the emotional baggage I wasn’t even aware I was carrying.

It is very important to be comfortable in your birth environment and the people around you. Processing your previous birth or experiences is also significant to achieving your desired outcome. This can be hard on both sides because how do you ask your mother not to be there for the birth. You may even need to seek additional outside counseling to help get through some of those mental blocks.

Let’s work to make fear less of a four-letter-word and more of something that doesn’t even matter or have power in our birth!

May 20, 2015 - 1:57 pm

Eduard - Lacee,I loved reading this and seneig all the great pictures! Jason did a wonderful job capturing all the special moments in her new little life! I especially love the one where you are holding her and she is looking up at you! Such a special picture! Love you all soo much! Mom/grandma

Guest Blogger: Empowered Papa’s JOE VALLEY

5 Conundrums

We all love being helpful, yet it can be difficult to tell if we are actually accomplished something. I spoke at the Empower Your Birth conference last year, and I didn’t really know if what I was saying was meaning anything to anyone. Well, my experience of speaking at the Nashville event last year was a unique experience for me, because I received a very special call afterward. Here’s how it went:

“Hi, Joe. I loved your talk last year. My husband was so inspired that he went full into supporting homebirth for our baby. He knew we could do it. And we did it. And we couldn’t be happier.”

How great is that?!! I mean, that’s exactly it, isn’t it? Here’s a dad who was feeling concerned about a certain birth choice and then found the inspiration to dissolve his concern and transform it into confidence. That’s the magic right there.

I am so excited to speak again this year at the Empower Your Birth conference, and my focus will be on this way that dads transform their concerns into confidence. So, without further adieu, here are my quick thoughts on the matter:

5 Conundrums men have about getting involved with birth of their kids and what they can do about it

1. Birth is Women’s Business

Yes, birth is women’s business. Yet, it takes both a man and woman to create a new life, so I’d say it’s man’s business, too. I’d make the argument that a dad’s strong presence in the birth of his children is a factor in the bonding he has with his them. Not every dad gets an invitation to be involved because his active role isn’t necessarily culturally supported. However, he can have great confidence knowing he is forging a path for the sake of his children.

2. Showing up at childbirth education classes is a sign of weakness

A dad is in the conundrum of wanting to be the protector of his family while also not having a lot of experience of birth. In order to learn more, he must present himself as someone who doesn’t know very much. See the conundrum here? I didn’t want to go to the childbirth ed classes because I didn’t want to be seen as someone who needed to learn stuff; I wanted to be seen as a guy who already knew it. I overcame this problem by presenting as someone who already had confidence in himself, yet needed specific information in order to be truly prepared. It’s a subtle shift, yet it worked well for me. Asking good questions helped. Building good relationship with the birth professionals helped. And learning more about the birth process definitely helped, because it satisfied my need to understand.

3. My own birth was traumatic

This is probably the most challenging factor, because the story of our own birth has details in the preconscious parts of our being. I met a guy who was adopted, and he explained that the birth of his daughter healed the unresolved parts of his own birth story. In a way, he re-wrote the story of what birth meant to him. How powerful is that? A good place to start with your own birth story is to write it out. If your parents are available, then ask them about your birth. This is the time to stare at your navel for a little while and come to peace with your physical connection to your place on earth.

4. The births I’ve known about were traumatic

All I can think about is this scene of a mom screaming in labor as she bursts through the hospital doors on a gurney. The year is somewhere in the 90s and the show was ER. For some weird reason, that was my entire image of childbirth FOR A LONG TIME. So sad. That is not my image of birth anymore, thankfully. One thing that really helped was watching beautiful YouTube births. I’ll never forget showing this birth video in one of my dad childbirth prep classes. The guys and I were all crying at the end of this one birth. Imagine if you’d gone your whole life thinking that birth was like that ER scene. And then imagine that you saw a mother give birth to her baby and scoop him up in her arms with the purest of joy. Everything in your mind has to shift.

5. I don’t know any other dads making this kind of choice

Gentle birth choices are still statistical outliers. However, there is an entire culture of families forging a gentle path ahead. When Andrea and I were expecting our first child, I didn’t know any dads who were choosing things like waterbirth or homebirth. Now, I can count at least 10 dads I know personally who have made these kinds of birth choices. Furthermore, I know of hundreds of dads just like them, which has completely normalized gentle birth for me. When it was time for our second baby, I felt quite a bit more confident knowing I wasn’t alone. If you’re feeling the pangs of isolation, then grab yourself a copy of Jim Gaffigan’s book, “Dad is Fat.” You’ll see a dad who knows the ropes of gentle birth enough to even laugh about it.

So, there you go. I hope this inspires a man’s confidence in supporting himself and his partner for the birth of their kids. Here’s to dads everywhere connecting with their wisdom and confidence! And if you’re at the event this year on March 7th, I can’t wait to continue the conversation.

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Joe Valley      Empowered Papa

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We love our community here at Empower Your Birth! We couldn’t make this event a success without you. In thanks, we are doing a giveaway over at our Facebook page. Help us reach 1,000 fans and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a FREE video mini-session with Kalimana Film Stories. Her work is touching, beautiful, and a perfect way to honor your children or future children.
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