Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Power Birth--NOT to be Confused with "Empowered Birth"



*******Trigger Warning*******


"PowerBirth" sounds great, doesn't it? It's Birth. It's Powerful. It's...POWER BIRTH!  But the term "PowerBirth" is not a reference to the power of birth, it's a midwifery technique that is about the power of the care provider to manipulate and control a woman's body during birth. Big distinction.

The first time I heard the term "PowerBirth" was years after I had experienced the technique first hand (no pun intended). My first home birth left me struggling to comprehend what had happened to me. I chose to give birth at home with a midwife because I believed that birth is safe and I wanted to have a natural experience with as few interventions as possible. I believed that midwives are women who safeguard birth as a sacred rite of passage and don't interfere unnecessarily.

My midwife never mentioned that she had been trained in the Power Birth technique. There were red flags that would have tipped me off that she wasn't the hands-off midwife I thought she was, if I had known what to ask or watch out for. She dismissed my desire to try a water birth (too messy, she said) or to deliver in a squatting position (too hard to prevent perineal tears, she said). When I asked her how I could prepare for labor and if there were any childbirth preparation classes she recommended, she said, "Well, there's Bradley, and there's Lamaze. Both methods were invented by men and men don't know anything about real pain." So, no, she didn't recommend any classes.

She was the most experienced midwife in my community, having delivered over 400 babies, and had been recommended by women I knew. I was naive and thought I was in the best of hands. I trusted her completely.


My "PowerBirth" went like this....

My husband and I went on a walk before bed and just as we were about to go to sleep, I began having strong, regular contractions that were about two minutes apart. I had been expecting labor to start slowly and to gradually build in intensity but right away I felt like I was struggling to stay on top of the sensations, which were concentrated in my back. My husband called the midwife just before midnight and I tried to talk to her on the phone but couldn't speak during contractions. She said she was on her way.

The first thing she did when she arrived was perform a vaginal exam. And then she kept performing them. Over and over. It seemed like every few minutes she was back, gloved fingers in my vagina, pushing deeply inside me throughout the contraction, muscles flexed with the physical effort of what she was doing. What on Earth was she doing? I had no idea. All I knew was that it was the most horrifically painful thing I have ever experienced. The pain of my contractions was vastly amplified every time she touched me. I wanted to fight her off or flee. But even if I had been physically capable of mobilizing myself, in spite of the runaway train of my labor, I did not possess the assertiveness at that point in my life to defy her authority.  At one point the midwife snapped at me, "stop screaming, you're scaring the baby." I couldn't stop. I had forgotten I was having a baby.

PowerBirth is promoted by its founder and proponents as an empowering approach to birth in which mothers are encouraged to push when they have the natural urge. Ostensibly, it promotes listening to women's bodies, instead of telling women to hold back and not "allowing" them to push until they're fully dilated. If PowerBirth was a philosophy that encouraged birthing women to follow their natural pushing instincts instead of relying on external control and arbitrary policy, I would be a promoter of Power Birth.


But listening to your body is not what PowerBirth is about. 


My midwife manually dilated my cervix long before I had the urge to push. She forced my cervix to open faster than it was opening naturally (even though my labor was proceeding efficiently and there was no justifiable reason to intervene). She did not explain what she was doing or ask my permission to do it. I never consented to being Power Birthed and didn't know that's what was going on. I only knew that something was going terribly, terribly wrong and I was not in control of my body and I wanted her to get her fingers out of my vagina. My husband sat silently by, not knowing what to do or how to help me, and for that he felt deeply ashamed he said later.

I had been laboring on my back in bed (The better to dilate you with, my Dear) since the midwife arrived, other than trips to the bathroom. On one return trip from the toilet, I stumbled upon the supported squat position. I don't remember how I got into it, but there I was, squatting beside the bed, supported between my husband's knees, swaying my hips, and Ahhhh! It was the first time during the labor that the contractions didn't feel like a battering ram against my sacrum.  A few minutes later I started bearing down involuntarily, and my bag of waters popped, and the midwife ordered me to lie down. I refused. My body was telling me to stay put. She quickly made a bed of blankets on the floor beside me. I wailed "Nooooo!" as I was moved over to the blankets and placed on my back. Shortly, my baby's heart rate began to decelerate, although her heart rate had been steady while I was upright. Then all was crisis and "Push! Push! Push!" and threats that the baby had to be born NOW. I pushed with all my might, determined to get the baby out quickly, and tore severely on her shoulders.

The entire birth lasted 5 hours, from first contraction to delivery. My baby was blue and had a low APGAR score and needed oxygen, which the midwife gave her. Once the baby was stable and had been bathed and weighed, and after I had been stitched (sans anesthetic, because the midwife didn't have anything for pain except ice cubes to “numb” the tissue) the midwife left.  (I saw her once more a few weeks later for an obligatory postnatal visit and never again after.)


Power Hemorrhage

Backing up a bit...I need to mention that immediately after the birth, the midwife roughly massaged my abdomen and applied traction to the umbilical cord and pulled my placenta out before it was ready. Patience does not seem to be a quality you will find in abundance at any stage of a PowerBirth. Before she left, I passed out while trying to hobble from the toilet back to bed and my husband questioned whether I had lost too much blood. The midwife said "well, it IS a lot of blood. If it were any more blood than it is, it would be too much blood, but as it is, it's okay." It was so "okay" that I ended up in the emergency room later, having a transfusion of 4 units. The emergency room doctor said "in the bad old days, you would have died. Maybe you'll think about this before you try to give birth at home again."

But I was never giving birth again, at home or anywhere else, even though I desperately wanted more children. I didn't believe I would survive another birth. I was profoundly damaged, physically and emotionally. The physical scars took many months to heal. The emotional scars took much longer. It wasn't just that I grieved the loss of the gentle birth I had been hoping for. Every aspect of my life was affected. I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, which is caused by hyperarousal of the autonomic nervous system during a traumatic event. In addition to panic attacks, crying, persistent insomnia, and obsessive fears of dying, I was unable to endure intercourse with my husband due to excruciating stabbing pain. Even after the stitches were gone and the abrasion and hematoma had healed and there was no discernible physical reason for the pain, sex hurt a lot. Our marriage almost didn't survive. 


The Road to Empowerment

I have arrived at a place of peace where I recognize the good that came from that birth (besides the obvious and ultimate good of a beautiful, healthy baby girl who continues to light up my world). The experience inspired me to learn everything I could about what had gone wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. Without the trauma of that birth, maybe I would not have been so passionately hungry for the truth or inspired to find a better way. Thankfully, I found the work of Michel Odent, Ina May Gaskin, Jeannine Parvati Baker, Suzanne Arms, Laura Shanley and other truth-tellers and champions in the instinctive birth movement. I learned to trust my body again. I learned how birth works.  I subsequently had two peaceful, nearly painless, trauma-free, ecstatic births--both at home, both unassisted--one squatting and one in the water (which was not messy). :-)

Five years ago I discovered BirthWorks International and took their Childbirth Educator workshop to gain the tools to help other women on the path toward empowered birthing. BirthWorks teaches that the knowledge of how to give birth is born within every woman. Part of the BirthWorks Childbirth Educator workshop involves healing prior birth traumas and clearing emotional obstacles to instinctive birthing. During the exercises, I was finally able to forgive myself for not being more informed and educated, more assertive, or more powerful during my first birth. I had been beating myself up for not listening to my gut, for not standing up to my midwife and telling her NO, but BirthWorks helped me to accept and love the young, inexperienced woman I had been and to recognize that I did the best I could with what I knew. After I forgave myself, the exercises also helped me to forgive my midwife. In my heart, I know she believes she is helping women. In some very misguided way, she must believe deeply in the rightness of what she's doing. I do not think she harmed me on purpose.

I really thought I had healed my heart and soul and completely let go of all negativity from that birth but recently I was triggered after hearing the heart-breaking stories of two other local mothers who had similar experiences, but worse outcomes. Apparently women in my community are still being Power Birthed against their will. The damage continues.

My intention as a doula and childbirth educator is to focus on the positive and help women eliminate fear and understand how to tap into their instincts in birth. My role is to support them unconditionally as they find their own path to birth.  I'm not writing this to bring anyone down, spread fear, or because I enjoy dwelling on the negative. But I have realized that forgiving my midwife doesn't absolve me of the responsibility to speak up about what happened, in case my story helps other women avoid trauma.

I consider my first home birth "a hospital birth at home" thanks to my involuntary introduction to the PowerBirth technique, which robbed me of an instinctive, natural birth. My first birth was filled with everything I didn't want. This brand of midwifery is not safe or respectful of women or birth. It divorces women from their instincts by stimulating the neocortex, shutting off the flow of oxytocin and triggering fear (read my previous post: Your Brain On Birth). But the most important message I want to convey about Power Birth is that it victimizes women when it is inflicted on them against their will. No true midwife practices her craft this way.


"PowerBirth" should be called "Abuse-of-Power Birth" and it needs to stop.


Women have the right to make informed decisions and to refuse unnecessary interventions that rob them of their dignity and their ability to give birth on their own time, in their own way. Regardless of where or with whom a woman is giving birth, she has the right to body integrity and autonomy. She has the right to be attended with patience and gentleness. She has the right to consent.


There are many wonderful midwives in the world who believe in the innate ability of women to birth without interference. There are many midwives in my local area who I unreservedly recommend to women who are interested in home birth. If you are looking for referrals in Southern Utah or would like more information about how to interview a midwife to find out if she's right for you, please ask.


*************************************************

Link:
Here is a beautiful, inspiring article written by Gloria Lemay, a midwife in British Columbia, about Interventions in Birth.

63 comments:

  1. I am so very very proud of you for publishing this. I am so opposed to vaginal exams and cervical manipulations....and power birthing....when I first heard about it I got physically ill. so so so so sorry this happened to you

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  2. Love your Voice. Carry On!
    Nancy

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  3. Will share on my FB page. Thanks for speaking up.
    Gloria Lemay, Vancouver BC Canada

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. thank you for sharing this. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

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  6. I looked this up after I read this; these midwives are just as dangerous as any scalpel-happy OB. The assertion that every woman wants to push at 5-6 cm is beyond ridiculous. Heck, the assertion that every woman does anything in labor/birth is beyond ridiculous.

    I'm so sorry this happened to you and I'm glad you were able to eventually find peace and give birth your way.

    I'm sure it won't help anything, but I sent the originators of this "technique" a piece of my mind.

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  7. I shared this on Facebook as well. This post shook me to the core.

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  8. I'm so sorry this happened to you, but I'm also glad that you are telling your story. PowerBirth sounds like a load of hooey and a way for someone to make money selling books and seminars.
    Thank you for putting this out there and for offering to help others find a good midwife.

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  9. One of the most disturbing things, for me, is the lack of consent (why? if she really believes in what she's doing/that she's helping, she would be up front about it). If this is her SOP, she should be talking about it and obtaining consent prenatally, as in "as soon as I get to your house, I will be manually dilating your cervix 10 times an hour, and I will require you to be on your back most of the time, etc etc."

    I'm so sorry your midwife did that to you. I remember the pain of having my midwife hold back a cervical lip (at my request) and can't imagine having it done over and over with no explanation.

    Best wishes as your healing continues. Thank you for informing other mothers.

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  10. Here is my "Power Birth" experience:
    http://completebeginnings.blogspot.com/2010/09/birth-of-my-third-everett-roger.html

    9 days ago I had my uterus removed, bladder and rectum repair all because of damage done to my body during my "Power Birth".
    Mandala MAMA you are a gift!

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  11. Thank you for posting this. I happen to know of the creator pf powerbirth (from the same city), and all the women who I knew who walked away from her poewrbirthing were traumatized like you were. You are right on with this article. I hope you don't mind me including a link to it in my article for the Normalizing Homebirth Project.

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  12. Dy, I hope you are feeling better today. Much love to you.

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  13. there are conscientious and otherwise in every practice orientation. it is good to see you using your experience to help others. this is one reason why it is so important to interview and learn about your practitioner as much as possible before choosing them. women don't realize how important a decision this is until they experience something like you did. but it can happen with any practitioner, midwife or physician or otherwise, if their intention is to feel powerful over another rather than to support the woman's desires for birth.

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  14. Wow! I'm horrified! We tend to trust midwives and think that are gentle and trusting of birth and women's bodies. These power birth midwives should lose any licenses they may possess and have their names spread far and wide to warn others. I'm glad you have forgiven her, as bitterness only hurts us, but women need to know who these midwives are to protect themselves and their babies. I have never even heard of this term until today.

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  15. Ok first of all WOW! That is insane! I can't believe that a midwife would be like that. Second of all I was surprised when you said Southern Utah. I lived in St. George when I gave birth the first time and I didn't even know home birth midwives existed there (now when I go back I see signs and realize that I was just not aware of them and I worked at the hospital and had everyone telling me how scary home birth is) This makes me feel more at peace that I didn't end up having a home birth there (I've often questioned myself and wished I would have done differently). I had an epidural and I wished I hadn't, but I in no way felt violated or hurt, I just simply had no idea how to get through labor because they didn't teach natural birth in their childbirth class (the only one I was aware of at the time). Not that I'm saying hospital birth in Southern Utah is better than home birth, but you know what I mean. However, once I moved up to Salt Lake I felt like birth was violated a LOT more than in St. George. A LOT more! I had a home birth 2 months ago and it was awesome!

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  16. I wonder if Dy's midwife in Reno has the same connection your midwife in St. George has to the midwife in Las Vegas who claims to have invented power birthing. Luckily, midwives who abuse their clients like this are rare.

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  17. Amy, yes, feel free to share the link, and please post a link to the Normalizing Homebirth Project here. Thanks!

    Krista, I certainly don't want to scare anyone away from home birth in my community. Women give birth best wherever they feel safest and for a lot of women that's in the privacy of their own homes. Southern Utah is ground zero for the Power Birth craziness, but we have sane midwives here too. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the midwives I'm friends with. Women need to do their homework when they're choosing birth attendants, regardless of where they're giving birth. Ask questions. Know what the midwife or OB's birth philosophy is before you hire them. Trust your instincts. Don't be afraid to change your mind and change direction if you feel like something's up.

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  18. Oh my... I am in tears. I am so sorry that this happened to you. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. I hope it will help other women realize the importance in choosing the right care provider.

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  19. Oh wow. I had no idea there was a name for it, but this very thing happened to me in Las Vegas with a very experienced mw. I was in shock for weeks, unable to believe it had really happened. I believe, though cannot prove, that her interventions led directly to birth trauma that affected my baby for weeks after the birth and led to a serious disruption in our breastfeeding relationship.

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  20. Thank you for sharing this out in the open! I'm glad to see it come to light.

    Anonymous @ 5:53 on 12/22 - If the MW you had was Lydi Owen, she is the founder of Power Birth. I *believe* she is in Vegas now.

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  21. Thank you so much for your courage in speaking out about this appalling abuse and your experience of trauma. I have heard of midwives doing this but I had _no_ idea it had a name or was considered a "technique". I'm beyond horrified. I will be sharing this vital blog post too. Much love to you, it's work like yours that support women to birth safely at home.

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  22. Anon @ 6:05 No, it was no Lydi Owen, but I noticed on her site that she said she'd "apprenticed" 9 other mws. Makes me wonder if mine was one of those. I also don't know that my mw did "power birth" as a matter of course, but I guess she thought I was taking too long when she decided to dilate me from a 6 to a 10 all the while just telling me I had a "little lip." It wasn't until after the birth that she told me what she'd really done, complete with a giggle and a "aren't I cute?" look.

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  23. Anonymous @ 6:17 - It enrages me that this happens to women. I am a Midwife, and I cannot imagine how the hell one could justify this kind of abuse in their mind.

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  24. Excerpt from Dy's story with the same midwife:

    E braided my hair and put her hand on my shoulder and said. "Are you finally ready to have this baby?" It was 8 am. She had been there about two hours. I said yes of course I wanted to have my baby. She told me to lay back down and continued coaching me to push with her hand up inside. You could actually see her arm shaking with the force. My husband still at my feet started to cry. I wanted to scream. To kick her in the face and run away. This all just seemed wrong. Homebirth was safe. You got to listen to your body, to your instincts and my body was NOT telling me to push. Finally after another hour of horrible pushing she said "Good you are complete." COMPLETE?? Well then why in the hell had I been pushing for the past three hours against a closed cervix? I pushed for a few more contractions with her pushing down toward my rectum. When I told her "I can't push with your hand in there." She replied "Really that is highly unusual, most with most women it increases their urge to push." And she didn't remove her hand.

    http://completebeginnings.blogspot.com/2010/09/birth-of-my-third-everett-roger.html

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  25. Mandalamom, I am pretty sure I know who your midwife was and she WAS an apprentice of Lydi Owen in Las Vegas. I also apprenticed with Lydi and I can assure you that not all of us believe in this foolishness called Power Birthing. I have fought for years against this but amazingly hundreds of women love Lydi and think she has saved them from something even worse. Very sad.

    I am so happy to hear you have risen up from this trauma and made a difference. My heart aches for your pain and rejoices in your recovery.

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  26. Thank you for sharing this story, I can't imagine what it must have been like and I'm glad to hear that you've overcome it (and that your other babies were delivered safely!) Im absolutely appalled and shaking with the knowledge that this kind of nonsense (or evil) is being purported as a healthy way to birth. May it never happen again!!!

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  27. Mandalamom,

    Your trust in the process gives creedence and hope to us all. My body *knows* how to give birth.

    Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts.

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  28. I have never heard of Powerbirth before! I am so glad you came to a place of healing, but that manipulation against your consent(had you been asked to begin with) is beyond unethical- It was cruel!

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  29. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am in awe at your courage and strength in getting through such an experience. Thank you.

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  30. I had never heard of a PowerBirth before. Thank you for sharing and educating me and others. This terrifies me, and further my resolution to have a strong doula by my side for my next birth, no matter where I choose to birth. I had a very similar experience to yours with a midwife in a hospital setting and was equally traumatized. I was considering a home birth to protect myself from overzealous 'caregivers' that are more interested in doing something, anything, than waiting on my body to progress naturally and properly.

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  31. When I was a student midwife, I attended a few births with one of Lydi's associates and one birth with Lydi. I had no clue what I was witnessing at the time. All I knew was that there was no way I'd ever have a baby with either of them. It did shape the way I practiced though - It strengthened my resolve to be hands off, to shut my mouth and to keep the power and choices firmly in the birthing mothers hands.

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  32. Anonymous,
    I would love to "talk" more with you about your expereience with Lydi and other power birth midwives.
    I was outraged to read Mandala Mom's birth story (nightmare) on the Midwifery Today page, but did my due diligence and emailed Lydi to ask what her practice was. She responded the next day, saying that she does not engage in manual dilation of the cervix and believes that an attempt to do so would tear the cervix, doing serious harm. She was open in saying that she believes some vaginal exams in labor support healthy birth outcomes and that she is not a hands-off midwife; being unafraid to declare herself as such.
    That leaves me without a clear truth.
    I have no doubt that MM and DyAnna experienced trauma. I have no doubt that Lydi believes she does no harm.
    The question is whether this is true or not. I will add here that I do not believe that truth is subjective when it comes to physical harm.
    Please email me at clearroadbirth@gmail.com if you are open to speaking frankly with a fellow student midwife in Nebraska.

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  33. I am disgusted at the abuse you were subjected to.

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  34. The midwife who attended my first birth sent me a message. She doesn't acknowledge in the email that she's the midwife who attended this birth but she brought up some important points. I've posted an open letter to her in response: http://mandalamom.blogspot.com/2010/12/open-letter-to-my-midwife.html

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  35. Though I am very close to you, I never understood what happened during your first birth or what the experience did to you. Thank you for perservering when I would have given up! It was such a blessing to be with you as you prepared for the next birth. I couldn't believe the peace that filled your home as babe #2 entered the world. As I sat reading stories with #1 in my room, I knew that you were as prepared as any woman could be. I was amazed by the gentle way in which she entered the world and that suddenly, instinctively a baby had arrived! As a young woman, this empowered me in a way that I never knew I needed until I prepared for my own births. Every woman needs to find her own way, but she can only really do so if she has a clear understanding of what is ahead, her own vision/preferences, and the methods/intentions of those assisting her. Though the birth path I chose was tailored differently - to match my own personality, I never would have known to study these things out or how to prepare had it not been for your example. With your guidance, I have been able to birth in the way that was just right for me (including twins). Additionally, I am super grateful that you stayed true to your desires and for each of the personalities that were brought into the world through your efforts!
    ~Your Niece

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  36. Thank you, sweet Niece. :)

    You are a powerful woman and you inspire me as much as I've inspired you.

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  37. Oh I am so sorry for what you have gone through. This practice is absolutely abysmal and goes against everything midwives that catch babies at home should know.

    Being in Southern Utah, it makes me wonder how many women I know have been through the same thing but aren't sure how to come forward. I really hope this post reaches them and they can see they aren't alone.

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  38. I just wrote a long comment..took almost an hour... and the computer ate it!
    so here is a shorter version.
    I travel some as a midwifery speaker and have have been able to discuss birth with some of the midwives who use these techniques.

    the midwives who practice Power Birthing and similar techniques believe they are doing the best for moms and babies.
    They believe they are shortening labor by helping the cervix 'move out of the way". They believe this results in a birth which is gentler, easier and safer for moms and babies.
    Their intentions are good!
    They mean no harm. They are sure they are helping, and most would be shocked that some would call these techniques "interventive".
    Like most of us humans, they "Believe what they see." But they also "see what they believe".

    Several have described "gently" stretching the cervix during exams, and manualy holding the cervix during transition as helpful and even "merciful", because these techniques shorten transition and second stage and thus reduce the need for ceserean sections.

    These techniques are common in some regions; common in many OB practices; they are considered "normal practice".

    I do agree that these are sometimes needed during abnormal labors. But the wide majority of labors SHOULD be "normal" and these techniques have no place in "normal physiologic mother-led" births.

    Every midwife, doctor, nurse -- every birth attendant - neesd to be open to learning new ways. They need to discover if their methods are truly effective, or actually the best for moms and babies. All types of birth practition can become easily convinced thier way is best. This applies to interventive midwives just as well as to the doctor with a high ceserean rate.

    We need to learn from each other; discover (and discuss) the data; listen to those who study physiological birth. And there are many confre3nces, workshops and seminars where this can happen.
    But most of all we must LISTEN TO THE WOMEN!
    and --- the women MUST speak up!
    Thank you for being willing to speak about your experiences!

    gail hart
    gailhart@midwifeupdates.com

    www.midwifeupdates.com

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  39. I birthed multiple times using PowerBirth. All of my births were non invasive, safe and satisfying. There was no manual manipulation of anything. My midwife Lydi Owen was intuitive, loving, and most importantly competent. Her skill level and caring way of putting me at ease and helping me feel safe during my births helped me deliver two eight pound babies without stitches or any complications. There was nothing invasive or uncomfortable experienced concerning her during my prenatal care or my labor. I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I felt she treated me with the greatest care in the most respectable manner and I received what she promotes-an empowered birth. My last labor with a "gentle birth" midwife resulted in her manually holding my cervical lip up for ten minutes (my labor was going for days and I begged her to do something-I don't regret that even though it was painful, it did speed my labor)and telling me how to push. I never had to do that birthing with Lydi Owen either times with much larger babies and less experience. My third child barely weighed seven pounds and was much smaller than my other two. I wanted to push yet my last midwife who believes birth should be left entirely to the mother's whims wound up having to be more invasive than most of the false, erroneous claims I've seen written about PowerBirth.
    With a midwife who claimed to not believe in cervical checks, I wound up having her hand in my vagina and instructing me when and when not to push for ten minutes to avoid the c-section I was heading towards because I was tired out after days of labor. I had the overwhelming urge to push at 5cm(I made my midwife check to see my progress)and she didn't take me seriously, insisted I wasn't in active labor because I could handle the intense contractions she couldn't see I was having. I PowerBirthed before...and it made it easier for me to handle the pain and less fearful about what was going on. What I'm saying is that although I respect my last midwife, I truly believe that if I had this last birth with Lydi Owen, or a PowerBirth midwife, my labor would have been easier, shorter, and less traumatic for me without any manual interference from my PowerBirth midwife in any way. PowerBirth may not be for everyone, however it is safe, effective and most gentle towards women and their babies in labor when practiced by a caring, skilled midwife. I'm sorry your labor was tramautic, I experienced some of the same, however it wasn't with a PowerBirth midwife.

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  40. Thank you for having the courage to post this! Women need to know this is NOT normal and that this is NOT what true midwives do! My heart goes out to any woman who has went through this!

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  41. Oh my. I did not even know such an horrific thing existed. I am glad I have not experienced it, because I would not have been able to fight it. I had two hospital births, which were ok (except babies taken away from me for 5 min, to insert tubes in their mouth to get fluids out of their stomach and to remove mucus from their noses, I'm afraid, but I'll never know), and one in a hospital birthing center with was all natural and pretty amazing. I am against vaginal exams during pregnancy and labour, which is a difficult battle (I was shown the door when I refused the vaginal exam, by the hospital doctor of the birthing center I had my baby, he did not check my blood pressure and did not prescribed the routine blood check).
    Thank you.

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  42. This is like reading a page from my own life! I also had a meddlesome midwife who manually dilated me and broke my water with her fingernail during both of my births. I found my own peace by becoming a midwife who genuinely respects women and the beauty of their births.

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  43. I didn't realize it until reading this but my experience with my first birth was the same! So, it just hit me, I too had a power birth that I was unaware of and totally against! I had a very hard time getting over it. I moved away from Southern Utah and had two other babies, natural, at home and they were both amazing experiences. I educated myself a lot but could never pin point what went wrong with that first birth, until now!!! Wow! I'm speechless!

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  44. something very similar to this happened to me in isreal with my son, my first birth. my in laws are still mad at me for having ptsd (they were best friends with the midwife)one underlying reason we fled back to the US :o(

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  45. ok...reading some of this horror has left me in tears...all of you, especially Dy! oh my God. It seems to me that some of these "mifery events" were nothing more than (Dr. J.) Mengale type manipulations. Any woman, man, person that could invent such tortuous dangerous things to do to a pregnant woman should be publically stoned.
    I know of some horror myself and this should be more closely monitored. Powerbirth? REALLY? GOD is the one with the POWER! I am heartfully sorry to each and every one of you beautiful women that lived through this terrible, terrible mess...As a nurse, in the states, with a very liberal mind to alternative medicine, I pray for your healing. I hope the individual(s) responsible for your pain, suffering, and loss is brought to justice.

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  46. I can't believe we're in 2011 and it still happens...

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  47. Wow this is horrifying! I admit I am/was completely naive that a MIDWIFE would commit such an atrocity. The complete violation of a pregnant momma and her baby's right to birth peacefully as nature intended. I just can't fathom what on earth she was thinking? She is on a major ego trip is what it sounds like....sounds like she was tired of sitting around for hours and days and weeks waiting on all her mamas to decide how long they were going to let their labors go before doing anything to move them along, tired of sitting and waiting, so she decided she would take matters into her own hands and be done with all this nonsense. eh?!

    What a sick woman....can you report her to the Better Business Bureau, her licensing organizations, anyone? This is just sick! O_O

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  48. So how do you birth?? You must be expert now...

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  49. BTW why is that you have to view the comments before posting.... do you not care to see all the facts regarding POWERbirth... You woman are so egotistical, jealous and prideful!!! You should be ashamed of yourselves, calling out other woman... Please advise me of how many birth you have done, and how many transports, and how many babies have died because of your lack of knowledge.. Compelte IGNORANT!! I am SURE there is more to this story.. MY POWERBIRTH with both of my child WERE AWESOME experiences. My MIDWIFE WAS AWESOME, she was calm, loving, and knowledgeable, and in CHARGE!!

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    1. Why are you so aggressive?

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  50. I ask ALL of you to read this article.... Read it with no judgements.. No EMOTIONS!! Keep the FACTS!! Dont let EMOTIONS get in the way of the facts.. Please be educated... http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/ruleof10.asp

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  51. Dear Ms. Johnson, I'm very familiar with the article "The Rule of 10 versus Women's Ancient Wisdom." The founder of PowerBirth who wrote the article never admits in writing that part of her technique involves pushing a woman's cervix open with her fingers, or instructing women to push long before their instincts tell them to.

    But she's on video doing those things and that's what my midwife (who was trained by her and shares equal time on her promotional DVD as an expert in the method) did in all the PowerBirths I've heard of and seen from other survivors attended by her.

    In the article you posted the link to (thank you) she says: all the women I help, give birth on the floor.

    Powerbirths invariably take place in the lithotomy position (thousands of births, with all those mothers on their backs on the floor with their legs pulled up, think about it...) That is for her convenience as she is constantly in the woman's vagina, pushing the cervix aside. (Unfortunately, lithotomy position is not physiological for birth and increases the risk of shoulder dystocia.) But that statement about all of the women she "helps" lying on the floor is the only admission you will ever see in writing about just how controlling her method is. I'm relieved to hear that your experiences were not like mine.

    Women who have the freedom to listen to their "ancient wisdom" choose all kinds of different positions to give birth in, moving and adjusting to the signals from their bodies and babies. Kneeling and squatting are the positions I instinctively chose when I listened to my body (in the absence of an "in charge" midwife) in my subsequent births, thanks for asking.

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  52. Here is a follow up post about another PowerBirth survivor's experiences: http://mandalamom.blogspot.com/2011/02/picture-is-worth-thousand-words-faces.html

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  53. I am so sorry you had to go through this... but at the same time, I feel almost a relief that there is a name for this kind of abuse and it wasn't a figment of my imagination.

    I had planned a gentle non-interventive hbac and and chose a midwife who seemed very supportive and came highly recommended. What you wrote is almost exactly what I went through - the stretching of the cervix while being held down and yelled at to push, her hand up there with every push, lithotomy position, begging her to stop... I couldn't push like that! It's no wonder my baby never moved down. We eventually made our escape to the hospital and I'd never been so relieved to see an OB... until he tried to do a vaginal exam and I was already traumatized - yelling at him to stop and screaming. I still couldn't push my baby out and ended up with another c/s. But I was horrified with my experience and traumatized. It took me 5 years before I could step foot into a Gyn's office - and it wasn't until I was pregnant again and I "HAD" to go. Thankfully, he is so very respectful and understanding - he has made me feel so comfortable...but the anxiety every time he has to do a procedure is STILL there.

    Thank you for posting your story.

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  54. Oh my! I'm so sad that that happened to you. The midwife who used those methods on you may not have been an official "Powerbirth" trained midwife but that certainly sounds like a Powerbirth experience. I'm so glad you've found a gentle, respectful care provider.

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  55. I am so grateful to have meet you. I was speaking to a friend that works in the Labor and Delivery and she warned me to not start pushing before my body is ready. She said that is where they have trouble with home deliveries coming into the hospital. I didn't really understand until I read story! Thank you for all your advice and direction.

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  56. I'm sickened by what I've just read - this was NOT midwifery that you experienced, this was abuse at the hands of someone who should be stopped. As a midwife, I can't imagine the horror this woman is imposing. Thank you for sharing your story and for working to empower other women.

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  57. I hate to say it - but this is part of the reason I'm against the "natural" childbirth revolution. Long before medical intervention - we had higher rates of death in childbirth. That being said - it took IVF for me to have a baby as I'm infertile too. So I'm having a test tube baby - I tossed the "natural" out of my child bearing plan a long time ago.

    I don't believe in forgoing pain management. I don't believe in needing to be empowered in child birth. I have other things in my life to make me feel empowered. I go to doctors because I want them to take care of me as best they know how since they have seen so many more births than I have. I know it's not the popular attitude to have - but I'm due to deliver in the next few weeks and I just want it to be as safe and painless as possible. I don't want a c-section - but I do want an epidural.

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  58. @FlowerChica, congratulations on your pregnancy! I wish you the best. Every woman has her own reasons for giving birth the way she does. I hope everything goes beautifully for you.

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  59. I'm just starting to learn about powerbirth, after a woman on my hubpage asked if I had been powerbirthed without my consent. After doing some reading, I am more than certain my midwife omitted the fact that she would be trying to powerbirth me after promoting a hands off method. I am so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for sharing. If you'd like to read birth story, please visit http://hubpages.com/hub/Dying-to-Birth-at-Home-Is-Homebirth-Worth-the-Risk
    http://hurtbyhomebirth.blogspot.com/2011/03/zens-story.html

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  60. Anonymous above me, just so you know, the website that your story is published on is run by a very deceitful, nasty Dr (not practicing)

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  61. I've never heard of such abhorrent practices before, and am so so grateful to have had a beautiful caring respectful and gentle midwife and a beautiful natural water birth.. I realise how lucky I am to have had this experience and wish with all my heart that birthing mothers all had such experiences, as opposed to such violating and unnatural abuse. My heart go out to the many many (vastly too many) women who have had traumatising births, especially when the trauma is unnecessarily inflicted upon them by someone they trust. I weep for these women and hold precious my birthing knowing it could've been so different.. I hope with all that I have that these women find within themselves the healing they so need and deserve.. one teaching that I benefited greatly from was CalmBirth (a name so beautifully and aptly opposite to PowerBirth!) ..which i believe is in America (i am in Australia) and promotes a calm gentle, mother-led birth and healing from past birth traumas, coping with birth fear and so on.. I would recommend them to all and am sure their teachings and relaxations (along with prenatal yoga and breathing) helped hugely in me having the beautiful birth that I did. Thank you so much for sharing your story and educating and helping others. You are amazing for doing s, and i'm so happy you went on to experience how beautiful birth really is. Blessed be xöx

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