Friday, June 10, 2011

An Open Letter To the Midwife Who Trained My Midwife, RE: Sexual Abuse

Dear Founder of PowerBirth,

It's been brought to my attention that my midwife is encouraging you to sue me and the other women who have spoken publicly about their negative PowerBirth experiences. I believe you're being misled that such a law suit would end favorably for you, but I suppose stranger things have happened in our judicial system. I'm not writing to try to discourage you from doing whatever you feel you have to do. 

I heard that one of the Powerbirth midwives said after my birth story went viral that "there's no such thing as bad publicity." Where PowerBirth is concerned, I believe this is true, since more women in my community are asking the right questions of their midwives these days, and are making more informed decisions about who to hire based on the type of births they desire.

I do sincerely hope that threatening to sue is not just another attempt to bully other PowerBirth survivors into continued silence. It is easier to heal and move on when you let go of secrets. I encourage all women who are recovering from traumatic births to find a safe place to talk about it. It can be hard to discuss openly, particularly when the trauma took place in a small community, involves an abuse of power in the caregiver relationship, and the caregiver has demonstrated a willingness to twist facts, revise history, and accuse victims in an effort to manage public perception.


The reason I'm writing to you is to discuss the speculation you posted on your business website recently that the women who have been traumatized by the PowerBirth technique must all be victims of sexual abuse. (Because birthing women who haven't been abused enjoy a hand in their vagina during every contraction--enjoy having their cervixes and perineums forcefully stretched and their babies pulled out?) You wrote on your website that you pray for our healing...


So, first of all, Thank You. Thanks for your prayers. Because it's true: Some of the women who have been traumatized by PowerBirth are survivors of sexual abuse/assault and have a lifetime of healing ahead of them. Prayer certainly can't hurt. Some of the women who have been traumatized by PowerBirth are not survivors of sexual abuse and deserve prayers for continued healing as well. But let's talk about the sexual abuse survivors who are also survivors of traumatic PowerBirths.

I would like you to understand the prevalence of abuse and how important it is for care providers to approach prenatal care sensitively and with full candor and respect for the mother's ownership of HER body. It would be great if you could see how an abuse survivor's history may influence her experience of being PowerBirthed without her consent. Maybe then you will begin to see the big picture. This is primarily an issue of maternal rights, not midwifery theories.


It is estimated that one in four women in America has been the victim of some form of sexual abuse at some point in her life. In Utah, where some of your PowerBirth midwives practice and where I had my PowerBirth experience, the rate is slightly higher than the national average. So midwives should assume that at least 25% of their clients have a history of sexual abuse. They may not know which clients have been abused because some survivors do not have any conscious memory of the abuse, and some may be incapable of acknowledging it openly. As Penny Simkin tells us, "Lack of memory of abuse does not eliminate the pain." 

It would be reasonable for midwives to assume that possibly many more than one out of every four clients has been sexually abused, because abuse survivors may be more inclined to choose homebirth than women who have not been abused. This is because the abuse survivor needs greater control over her surroundings and what is done to her body during the vulnerable act of giving birth. She may be hyper-vigilant about her own and her baby's safety and choose homebirth to avoid separation from her baby and disruptive routine medical procedures.


I think it's statistically reasonable to assume that out of the thousands of women who have experienced the PowerBirth Technique (or PBT, as it was commonly called until recently), at least 25% were predisposed to being triggered and traumatized by a midwifery method that routinely invades the mother's space and exerts control over her body. Especially when the mother's first introduction to the method is during her labor, instead of during the prenatal education period, the application of the PowerBirth technique can feel like a reenactment of previous abuses.

"Many abuse survivors, for very good reasons, have issues with control, helplessness, exposure, restraints, trust in their bodies, trust of strangers and authority figures, pain, especially genital pain, penetration of their bodies, and discomfort with new situations. Those who choose hospital birth try to lessen distress by prior planning and preparation and communicating their needs to staff. Those who choose out-of-hospital birth do so in hopes of avoiding those issues, but must also prepare for the possibility of transfer, which will bring about the circumstances they had hoped to avoid." When Survivors Give Birth, by Penny Simkin, PT, and Phyllis Klaus, CSW, MFT


In the above excerpt, there is an implied assumption that the abuse survivor birthing at home will be able to avoid the type of care that inflicts trauma unless she needs to transfer to the hospital. There is no warning that midwives can routinely inflict the same emotional and physical trauma at home, because this type of midwifery is not well-known around the world. When most people think of homebirth midwives, they picture the BirthKeeper, the midwife who believes in birth, in women's bodies, and in allowing things to unfold naturally, without interference, unless there is a true emergency necessitating action.


There are many things you've written about women and childbirth that I wholeheartedly disagree with. I do not subscribe to your theories which contradict research about the physiology of birth and I find many of your statements outrageous, such as your claim that "most women" prefer to give birth on their backs, that the lithotomy position coupled with perineal massage adequately approximates the benefits of squatting, that all women feel the instinctive urge to push at 5 centimeters and increase their risk of cesarean by not pushing at 5 centimeters, that it is safer to have an elective cesarean than to give birth with a "hands off" midwife, that digitally pushing aside the cervix during contractions is what a midwife is "supposed to be able to do", etc. etc. But these arguments have been debated ad nauseum for years with entirely too much ego involved, and too little regard for who really owns birth: Mothers.


My purpose for continuing to write and talk about PowerBirth is to do what I can to make certain that mothers in my community are not having their rights to informed consent and informed decision-making stripped away during their home births. There are others championing patient autonomy and reform in hospital settings.  But when women decide to have homebirths and end up with hospital-births-at-home, having hired midwives whose standards of practice include routine, unnecessary, not-evidence-based interventions that are not being disclosed prior to labor, I feel an obligation to sound the alarm.

Regardless of her history, every birthing mother deserves to be involved in all decisions that affect her body, her baby, and her birth. She deserves the truth right from the beginning about what prejudices and practices her midwife brings to birth. 


If I had had ANY IDEA that my midwife's standard of care involves attempting to speed up labor by inserting her fingers into the mothers vagina during every contraction, without explanation or permission; constantly assessing dilation by fractions of centimeters; digitally pushing and stretching the cervix during contractions; requiring the mother to lie on her back on the floor to push regardless of the mother's preferences; manually stretching the perineum with her hands while directing pushing; pulling baby out by the head; and pulling the placenta out by the cord moments after birth, I would not have hired her. I DIDN'T SIGN UP FOR THAT. These interventions were performed without my consent. They were excruciatingly painful, terrifying, and degrading.

As an abuse survivor, to have this technique sprung on me during labor was to experience a heartbreaking theft. Once triggered by my midwife's disrespectful actions, I lost touch with my surroundings and the purpose of the pain. When I pushed my baby out and she took her first breath and I heard her first cry, my first thought was "Who would bring a baby to this?" I had forgotten why we were there and didn't recognize my baby as my own for a while. I have healed a great deal in the years since my first birth, but there is a lingering hurt and shame.


All I am asking from you and the midwives in my community is full disclosure so that other mothers can avoid what I went through. Stop the cover up. Tell mothers during the initial consultation what they can expect if they hire a PowerBirth midwife. The ones who want what you're offering will hire you and those who don't won't. Hopefully all mothers will do their due diligence in researching the pros and cons of different theories and ways of birthing. I openly admit that I was under-educated and relied too heavily on the midwife's reputation, rather than my own intuition and research. Thankfully, the iatrogenic complications that my baby and I experienced at her hands did not cost us our lives, although they could have. We got lucky.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bulls in the China Shop: Hands-On Midwifery Versus Instinctive Birth




I wish every mother could experience an instinctive birth. There is nothing else like it on earth. When a woman births in integrity with her own mind, body, and spirit, all elements converging with singular intent under the guidance of her feminine power and wisdom, the experience is transformational. Once you understand instinctive birth on an experiential level, you know that birth has an innate intelligence and spirituality. As Jeannine Parvati Baker said: Birth is the most obvious expression of "what is" that we can experience...for a conscious woman childbirth is self-evidently holy.

I wish every midwife could experience an instinctive birth, too. Because it would completely put to rest the debate among midwives about the merits of being routinely "hands on" versus being "hands off" (except in a true emergency). Why wouldn't women want us to manage their births and just, you know, speed things up a little? some hands-on midwives in my state are wondering. 


If those midwives had given birth instinctively at some point before attending other women, they wouldn't have to ask. 

"Birth is instinctive and what is instinctive cannot be taught, only experienced." ~Cathy Daub, Founder of BirthWorks

Instinctive births are undisturbed births. They may be unattended or they may happen in the presence of birth attendants who understand the hormones of physiologic birth, but they do not happen with "hands on" caregivers who routinely intervene. The mother's autonomy and feelings of privacy and control are crucial for the birth hormones to flow, which is how birth transcends the mechanics of the process and becomes instinctual and ecstatic. Without privacy and control, the mother loses access to her inner knowing and she cries out to be delivered.


A midwife who has, herself, never experienced a hands-off birth, who has never educated herself about the hormones that flow during hands-off birth, who has not apprenticed under a hands-off preceptor, cannot understand instinctive, hands-off birthing. She doesn't know why it's safer. She doesn't know how it promotes bonding and empowered mothering. She has no knowledge base from which to judge the merits of being hands-off. 


"Birth is an involuntary process and an involuntary process cannot be helped. The point is not to disturb it."  ~Dr. Michel Odent


I can tell you from experience that hiring a hands-on midwife to attend your home birth is like hiring a bull to supervise your china shop. The bull might eventually convince herself that it's her presence in the store that keeps the china safe, because she has some fancy tricks up her sleeve and has learned to rescue some of the plates she knocks off the shelf before they smash on the floor. I can tell you that she'll try to justify her actions by claiming that the china was falling anyway and you're just lucky she was there to save it


I also speak from experience about instinctive birth. I've had three drug-free "natural" home births, but only two were instinctive. Sarah Buckley wrote a magnificent article about how the exquisite hormonal orchestration unfolds optimally when birth is undisturbed, enhancing safety for both mother and baby


When birth attendants don't understand the hormonal aspect of how birth works, they do outrageous things. Here are some hallmarks of midwives who don't understand the physiology of birth. They:
  • Invade the mother's space without explanation, treating her like a passenger
  • Induce labor for convenience sake
  • Do frequent vaginal exams
  • Talk during contractions
  • Invite "helpers" into the birth space without the mother's prior permission. 
  • Move the mother out of the position she's chosen, for their own convenience or comfort.
  • Ask if the mother "feels like pushing"
  • Tell the mother how/when to push
  • Convey their own impatience, either through words or body language
  • Cause the mother to feel observed/judged
  • Use fear to gain the mother's compliance (playing the dead baby card)
  • Manually dilate the mother's cervix to speed things up
  • Manually stretch the mother's perineum
  • Don't allow the mother to birth in water (or wherever she feels most comfortable and secure)
  • Touch the emerging baby and/or pull on the baby's head
  • Pull on the cord to get the placenta out faster

As saddened as I am that there are so many birth workers unwittingly doing harm to women and babies because they've never been educated about the physiology of normal birth or how routine interventions thwart instinctive birthing and introduce iatrogenic complications, I'm beyond sad that so many of them are not upfront about their practices. How can mothers make informed choices if they're being fooled?


Imagine you've hired a midwife to attend your homebirth and you've never heard that there are midwives who do constant vaginal exams during labor, manual dilation of the cervix, and directed pushing without the urge. Suppose that sometime in your 7th month someone informs you that your midwife practices a patented method of midwifery that involves just that. You do some research and find out that this method is the exact opposite of the natural, gentle home birth you thought you had hired your midwife to be part of, so you ask her if it's true.


And she chooses that moment, when you are 7 months pregnant and have already paid her thousands of dollars, to stop lying by omission. "Yes, I practice that way. Here, watch this promotional DVD. It will explain everything."


Really?


Birth attendants who respect mothers are up-front about their mode of care during the initial consultation. Hiding the way they practice, or only disclosing when they're "caught", just isn't right. It robs women of the right to informed consent.


A midwife who does not trust birth cannot pretend to trust birth when the time comes. It is impossible for a midwife to switch styles of midwifery without first switching paradigms of thought. Mothers deserve to know early in the relationship what kind of prejudices their midwives bring to birth. 


I respect every mother's right to birth however, wherever, and with whomever she chooses as long as she's fully informed, but I'm convinced that when mothers truly understand how birth works, they choose their own instinctive abilities over external routine management. The question of whether a mother should hire a hands-off midwife or a hands-on midwife can be answered by deciding whether she wants to have an instinctive birth or a disturbed birth.

Knowing what I know now, I would never hire a hands-on midwife. No more bulls in my china shop, thanks. 






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Beautiful hand painted mandala plate by tindink

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Story of Love and Healing: Heather's Home Waterbirth After Two Cesareans

I was honored to witness a beautiful home birth recently. This birth was a profoundly healing and triumphant experience for Heather. She gave permission to re-post her story here, with all names omitted except for mama and baby.

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 Heather's Story

"A good experience doesn't erase a bad one.  In some ways, it highlights the bad experience even more by shining light into every crevice of that dark time.  It gives it a perspective of range and degree that I couldn't previously comprehend.  I had nothing good against which to compare it.

Now I do.

My baby was born on March 30, 2011.  He is the only one of my three children I feel I've actually given birth to.

This birth story really begins with my two older sons, who were surgically extracted. I was an incubator whose job was over, and needed to be cracked open by a professional to get to the real prize. The first time wasn't so bad. They say ignorance is bliss, and in my case that was true. I had no idea what it meant to have a cesarean section. I didn't know it meant months of initial healing, followed by a year of aches, pains, and compromised core muscles.

I also didn't know that my first cesarean would be used as the sole indicator for the following “elective” repeat cesarean. The one even my doctor didn't recommend. Under duress created by an artificial time line, I signed the consent form. The whole time the only thought running through my mind was, “this is wrong.” After it was over, that thought (mantra?) didn't go away.  Many other things did though, and they were replaced by a number of common trauma symptoms, including amnesia (I don't remember much of anything for the five months following that surgery), anxiety, depression, persistent invasive thoughts--usually a variation on a replay of the surgery, or how it could have gone if I had tried to fight it (in all of these scenarios, I still failed)--all things I battled for many, many months. My thoughts only began to clear as another trauma symptom appeared: avoidance. When I realized that the problems I encountered in the deliveries of my two older sons were inherent in the hospital maternity system, I knew I couldn't go back to it. I knew if I did, it would likely cost me what was left of my sanity, and probably my family as well.

So my search began for an alternative that wouldn't make me crazy(er). I hit a lot of walls, but managed to find a midwife who was willing to help me. For the first time since my last surgery, I felt peace. I was finally able to bond with my younger son, and his cry didn't make me shut down entirely (usually resulting in me locking myself in my bedroom with a pillow over my head).  Maybe a month or two later, my husband and I were pregnant again.  It was time to put this new way to the test.

The prenatal care was like night and day in comparison to what I got with a regular doctor or OB.  Not to suggest my care with doctors has ever been bad, but it still could never measure up to the attention I got with my midwife. It was like the difference between learning how to play an instrument in a large ensemble versus taking private lessons from someone who specializes in your instrument.

The appointments were much longer, and allowed time to actually form a relationship. My midwife was able to discover more about my previous experiences and guess what effect they might have on this experience.  I had time not only to give her a good idea of what I wanted (which took me a while to figure out myself), but I had the time to feel comfortable enough to express those desires. Whenever something came up, rather than upping my risk factor, she gave me ideas how to lower any risk. Usually the advice came in the form of suggestions for healthy living in general, with a strong emphasis diet and nutrition. I knew before I ever went into labor that at the very least, my prenatal care in future pregnancies would be with a midwife.

On March 29th, I felt mild contractions all day, but they didn't seem to change or progress, so I ignored them. I don't think I even mentioned them to my husband. I had a pretty good idea that things would pick up soon though. The morning of the 30th, I could already tell the contractions had changed.  They still weren't remotely uncomfortable, but in the back of my mind I knew I'd probably have a baby very soon. Remembering how long labor was with my first though, I figured I wouldn't see any real action until late that night, or early the next morning. I mentioned the contractions to my husband, but didn't make a big deal about them. I didn't tip off that I might need him to come home later, because I didn't think anything would happen until after he came home.

My in-laws were visiting, helping to prepare my home for when baby arrived, with plenty of freezer meals and a cleaner house.  My mother-in-law and I had talked about visiting some of the local trading posts earlier.  She was busy making meals, but I suggested we go sooner rather than later. While she put the finishing touches on a lasagna, I sent a text to my husband, warning him that I really was in labor. The contractions were starting to feel a little uncomfortable, but I could still ignore them. I also put my midwife and doula on alert. My doula asked if I wanted to walk with her, but I wanted to get some stuff done first, so I said no.

I drove my mother-in-law to a few trading posts in town. We bought some Navajo-made jewelry, and did a little walking around. Our last trip took us near the hardware store, so I called my father-in-law and asked if he needed us to pick up anything for our sprinkler system (which he had kindly volunteered to expand). My midwife texted me asking if anything had changed. I replied that the contractions were more intense, but seemed further apart. I hadn't exactly been paying much attention to the clock.

I had a contraction as we entered the store, and since I was thinking about it, I mentally noted the time.  I've spent a lot of time at the hardware store, so I was able to quickly locate the few items my father-in-law said he needed. I knew I had previously miscalculated how close together the contractions were when I had another one as we were checking out. I checked the time. Ten minutes. I let my midwife know, and she informed me that she and her assistants were getting ready to leave (they had a very long drive ahead of them). I still felt okay enough that I drove us home, but I began to feel a little nervous that the midwife wouldn't make it.

When I got home, my husband called and asked if I needed him yet. I told him “not really,” but if he wanted an excuse to come home, he had one. Apparently his students were very worried that I was in labor and he wasn't with me, so his call was mainly to reassure them. Then he passed the phone around his classroom (and the adjacent music classroom) from girl to girl who had questions about labor and childbirth, etc. About half of the girls simply asked what I was going to name my baby. I dodged that one, because even though I pick out a name in advance, I like to have the wiggle room to change it on a whim if I feel the need.

Throughout these micro-conversations I was walking through contractions. I was also getting slightly annoyed at how many people I was talking to, especially since I don't hear well over the phone (which is a major reason I don't like to call people), and middle school voices are comprised almost entirely of the higher frequencies I can't hear well. I found myself having to either guess what they said, or asking them to repeat themselves. Mostly, I think my irritation was just a sign of progressing labor.

I went inside, where my mother-in-law was fixing an early dinner of pork chops and potatoes. It smelled good, but the noise was really beginning to bother me. I tried to hide in my office, which I had set up as my birthing area, since it had the most empty floor space (except for the living room, but the transparent curtains offered no privacy). Leaning over a birth ball felt good, so I tried that for a while, but people kept calling for me from the other room and asking me questions. I knew I needed to get out of the house.

My husband called and said he was coming home soon. We took a moment to celebrate the fact that he could skip his classroom management professional development class later that evening.

As soon as I was off the phone with my husband, I called my doula and asked her to come over.  My mother-in-law announced that dinner was ready, but I wasn't remotely interested anymore and told her to eat without me.

It was a relief when my doula showed up at my door and I could escape everyone else's needs.  We talked as we walked around the entire neighborhood. About half way through I felt done walking (but still had to walk home). I was also sweating, even though it wasn't particularly hot.

When we made it home, I had my doula and husband set up the birth pool while I hung out over my birth ball, which was quickly becoming insufficient for my needs. As they were fiddling with water spouts, I texted my midwife, letting her know the contractions were frequent and intense. She called in the middle of a contraction, so my doula kindly answered the phone for me and told me that they were about an hour away. While that was comforting, I still wasn't sure they would make it. Things were picking up much faster than I remember with my oldest (the only other labor experience I had).

My weaksauce hot water heater ran out of hot water too soon, but once there was enough cold water in the pool to reach the minimum water mark, even the lukewarm water was a relief. Not quite as much as I had hoped, but it did help. I think it would've been more effective if it weren't for the back labor. It wasn't long before I caught myself vocalizing (something I assured my-suffer-in-silence-self I wouldn't do!) but it felt good, so I gave myself over to it. Thankfully, by now my in-laws had finished dinner and taken my older boys to their hotel.

The biggest relief came from my diligent doula, who was working hard applying counter-pressure during each contraction. I remember consciously deciding to rest quietly between contractions, even though I could still talk/move if I wanted to. At one point I felt my vocalizing change a bit as my body wanted to push. It wasn't strong yet, but it was enough to send my mind scrambling a bit. I had never gotten this far before. I knew this was something I could do, but I didn't consciously know how. That was an uncomfortable feeling, even knowing that my body knew exactly what to do. I also wasn't quite ready to let go yet, especially because the midwife and her assistants hadn't arrived yet.

Thankfully they walked through the door just after that thought crossed my mind. I could feel myself relax considerably when my doula whispered they'd arrived. Of course I really had nothing to worry about, because even though I was feeling a little pushy, I still had plenty of time. It was around this time that I noticed how aware I was of everything. Even though I was physically quite preoccupied, my mind was entirely aware of every sensation, and my thoughts were perfectly clear. I don't know that I've ever felt so self-aware. Communicating was a different story, but I could still get a word in here or there.

Inside my sphere of awareness, I felt the baby's head inside the birth canal. I was sure he'd be out in another push or two, but I was trying to not consciously push. I wanted to let my body direct that part, since it seemed to know more about it than I did. My mind was busy focusing on letting go of him. I didn't want to. I had to give myself permission to let him out. This was when I learned exactly how long the birth canal actually is. I could feel him moving down, and each time he did I thought for sure his head was about to pop out, and each time he merely moved down a little more.

At one point I remember thinking that I was done, that I'd reached my limit, especially with the intense back labor. But I could think clearly enough that I knew the I'm-so-done feeling meant I really was almost done. And then I felt his head pop out. It didn't hurt, especially not in comparison to the back labor. If anything it was the first bit of physical relief I'd felt in hours. I did feel a slight sharpness for a moment, which I would later learn was a first degree tear, likely caused by the little hand he had up by his face, and his slightly posterior position.

My midwife whispered that I should slow down and breathe for a minute. Easy. I could feel the hardest part was over now. I leaned over the side of the pool and rested while I knew I could.  After about a minute, I felt his little body flip around suddenly. It was pretty much the coolest feeling ever. A few moments later he was out and in my arms.

The first thing I noticed was his full head of dark hair, which didn't surprise me at all. What surprised me was that I wasn't surprised! I only have baldies, where did this hair come from?  But the moment before I saw him I had a flash of a moment from a mostly forgotten dream, where I gave birth to a baby with a head of dark hair. Yeah, pretty weird.

I loved him instantly. That was new. Even with my oldest son I didn't feel like he was really mine for a day or two. For my (now) middle son it took months. Someone asked what his name was, and I looked to my husband for a moment to see if he had any impression that the name we picked didn't fit. He shrugged and said he didn't feel any differently about the name, so I introduced our son as Peter.  He was born in the caul (cool!) at 6:48 PM, weighed 8lbs 3oz, and was 21½ inches long.

I held Peter in the water, quietly observing him and trying to sort through everything I was feeling. I decided that mostly I was in awe. I know other feelings were there too, but they were too far overshadowed by my overwhelming love for my newborn son. I couldn't even think to remember that I had earlier been worried about not being able to expel the placenta. It came out just fine a few minutes later.

Then I was out of the pool and cleanup was underway. After that, it was snuggle time with my baby boy, and it has been pretty much ever since.

When my older boys came home later that night.  My oldest was very excited and wanted to hold “Baby Peter.”  The toddler was a bit more tentative, but looked at Peter, then looked at me and said, “Wow!”  Yeah, pretty much.

Days later, my husband still occasionally sees it fit to inform me that I'm still smiling. Yup.  I sure am. Oh, and Peter smells wonderful. That was one thing that particularly bothered me about the time after my other sons' delivery. He never smelled like baby to me, even though others claimed he did. He never smelled "mine". Not a problem this time around.

And now I find myself at a critical crossroads. I got what I wanted. I know how I can get it again. In a way, I'm free to leave the “birth sphere” entirely if I wish. I don't need it for myself anymore. On the other hand, I feel like I've been led here. There's no mistaking the things I felt before going into surgery for my second cesarean.  Everything was going to work out for the best. I had nothing to fear. I knew that at the time clearer than I've known anything. Anything.  

I know I would never have made the choices for this birth that I did without that terrible experience to lead me here. Not a chance. I had to be dragged here. Now that I'm here, I know I'll never leave. But was I led here just for me and my family? Or am I supposed to do something else with this? At this point, I can't tell you. But I can tell you this: my life changed overnight. I'm not the same person I was before Peter was born.  I'm not the same person I was before my other sons were delivered. I'm better, stronger, and happier than ever.  I love all my children more than I ever have. I love my husband more than I ever have. Who knew the other side was so amazing?

If I had it my way, I'd birth with these people every time. Unfortunately, this is unlikely, for various logistical reasons. At least now I know exactly what I want. I feel a little cheated that I couldn't have this experience my first two attempts, but at the same time I can't quite work far enough past my current bliss to care.

I can live with that."

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Artwork by Jennifer Lavender