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  • Sharon Tenuta

Birthing Unassisted

an opening pink rose
a strong single pink rose

By S. Tenuta, 2-26-24

I have seen a trend in my sphere of mothers wanting to birth with confidence on their own.  Some sites call that unassisted birth.  This is a way that people birthed throughout the centuries when they had no other option.  If there were options, women tended to find other women to support them for pregnancy, labor and birth. 

Even hearing people’s stories, is a way to have support for birth.  Or maybe in our age of TV and computer and technology, maybe the visual memories of birth, though not totally real, are engrained in our brains causing fear of birth.  A truly natural birth with no complications is actually beautiful and empowering for parenting and for bonding of the family.

Let me just imagine if I were having an unassisted birth, what would I need to know about?  I could just tune into my body, trust it and trust baby and go with the flow.  The flow sounds great, but then what if there is a pain that I don’t understand or realize I don’t know how to tolerate, then what?  What will I do?  I pre-learned to move, sleep, and eat and drink plenty of fluids.  These are definitely ways to keep energy during this new territory experience.  Even if mom has had several births, each birth is different.  Therefore, there is never a guarantee that another birth will be as easy or as challenging.  That is a good reason to consider having someone with the laboring mother.

So, mother still wants her labor and birth without another “birth professional” with her.  What is the normal progression of labor without medication?  If she has no fears to interfere with her process, then baby navigates the way to get out of mother.  Baby needs to go around the curves and pelvic bones in a way that the head can fit though each opening.  One opening, the oval head naturally fits front to back and the other opening it fits sideways.  Fortunately, mother’s ligaments are relaxed due to the hormone called relaxin.  Pubic bone makes space, pelvic bones can open like wings on a plane, and the sacrum can also open and close as needed if there has been no injury.  The first part of labor can seem long and never ending as the muscles of the uterus are activated, especially the first time.  This can take a couple of days. It is important to keep electrolyte drinks on hand.  When mom and baby arrive at active labor, that is when she is having surges every 2-5 minutes and they are lasting 45-60 seconds.  Mom must concentrate to relax.  She is often given a time to rest after this active labor process.  Then comes transition.  Mom may get crabby, burpy and shakey.  She will have surges that last 1-2 min. It is difficult as mom opens to its fullest.  Mom doubts her ability at this point.  That means baby is almost here.  There can be another rest as baby prepares for the final push out. 

During 2nd stage, the surges can last as long as 4-5 breaths.  Contractions can be further apart again…up to 10 min. Perineum opens and mom can start to feel baby’s head.  Mom is wise to keep her chin low and her jaw loose as these muscles are related to the pelvic muscles.  She may need to move.  Her intuitive listening helps her to move to best positions for baby to flow out.  Baby navigates the way out.  Once the head is out, we must wait for the shoulders and body to rotate so they can fit the opening.  Patience is good to have at this point.  Sometimes baby just easily follows.  Other times we must wait and breathe before baby is ejected. 

Let’s say all is going well with labor and the birth was quite easy.  What does mother still need to know?  Well, how long will it take for the placenta to birth?  This is a process that could take between 5 and 60 min.  There are stories of longer.  The parents need to decide if they want to cut the cord, or leave it attached.  If they cut the cord, how long after the birth?  There is blood circulating into the baby from the placenta until the cord shrinks up.  If a person wants a lotus birth, that means the cord stays attached to the baby until the baby lets it go…or that it naturally falls off.  This is about 3 days.  The placenta would need to have salt on it or herbs.  It can be rinsed off when needed.  It can be slipped into a plastic bag, bowl or basket.   If parents are cutting the cord, they would need a shoelace or string to tie the cord in 2 places so it can be cut between the two strings.  For me that would be at least an hour after the birth.

What if baby arrives and is not yet breathing?  For a normal situation, mother needs to stimulate baby gently and call baby’s soul into the body.  If it takes a bit too long for comfort, then it is important to either suck out mucous from baby’s mouth or carefully use a bulb syringe to suck out mucous.  After that puff 2 light breaths of air into baby.  Check baby again and do more light puffs.  If there is a more serious situation, call 9-1-1 and carefully do CPR or neonatal resuscitation.  It would be smart for mother to take a class prior to birthing at home.  Karen Strange has give a most baby centered Neonatal resuscitation class.  She notes that if all is normal, babies like to tell their stories of birth, while crawling to mother’s breast after birth.  That is if we don’t interfere with lifting baby to mother.  However, if a person misses that opportunity to observe baby, baby may try to tell its story another day. (watch for movement and vocal descriptions of birth).

What if mom starts a bleed after birth?  There is a common gush of blood when the placenta falls off the uterine wall.  This is not a concern.  If mom continues to bleed, rather heavy, there is concern.  Observe her face color and speech ability. If not normal, that would be a time to call for help.  9-1-1 usually works.  In the meantime, how can mom stop the bleed?  There are several ways.  1) Think consciously – bleed stop, 2) hold the uterus with hand for 15 min. firmly, 3) Cut a little placenta to chew on, 4) Yunan Pao has been used to stop a bleed, Traditional Chinese Medicine help, 5) Massage the uterus, 6) Use an herbal tincture (alfalfa is high in Vit. K for clotting), 7) Homeopathic remedy such as Pherum Phosphorica or phosphorus.  I have an anti-bleed tea recipe that uses fennel seed, shepherd’s purse, cinnamon stick, honey or maple syrup. 

What about the birth certificate?  Is the mom married?  If the father wants to claim fatherhood, there is a special form for an unmarried dad to fill out.  He must go to the courthouse and swear he is the father, with the mother.  The mother is highly recommended to go see a doctor within the first week of birth.  For the birth certificate, the mother needs a signature from a doctor, midwife or CNM or other medical practitioner.  These are licensed professionals.  The baby will need a newborn exam to verify its birth.

Prior to this labor and birth, mother could prepare for Postpartum.  For some cultures, the mothers are cared for up to 40 days after birth.  For help to heal the birthing tissues, Witch Hazel mixed in warm water squirted to the area, helps to soothe. For after birth contractions, some homeopathic arnica helps and so does Tylenol if you can have it. Remember that nursing the baby helps the uterus contract.  There are ceremonies to welcome baby and mother back into society as a new mother.  There are ceremonies to close her bones, to baptize baby, to bury the placenta, to honor this beautiful action of mother bringing new life to the earth, of bringing a new soul to this planet.

Preparing food, that is mostly warm, per Chinese practices, is best for closing up mom’s body and energies that were opened and released during labor and birth.  Keeping baby with mother almost constantly helps baby to trust the mother, and to trust that this experience on earth is safe.  If mother respects the time her body needs to rebound after pregnancy, labor and birth, her body will be prepared for her later menopause years.  Giving herself the time to eat, feed, sleep, and care for her baby, her muscles and ligaments will allow her body to go back to normal and her hormonal system will be reset.  

This is an age, when women want to feel empowered.  Many have gone the route of receiving care in hospitals, and have been disappointed or traumatized.  We had the experience of COV*D when many people did not get together, and even dad’s were not allowed to be with his woman during birth.  Fear was part of our narrative.  I believe many women want to avoid such situations, even though the hospital is good for when needed.  It seems birth has been disempowering and women are tired of such an atmosphere.  Many are taking birth back.  The balance in doing so, must be considered.  Knowing your reasons and knowing your options are important when a family makes the decision to have a home birth unassisted.  Taking full responsibilities for the process and outcome of birth must be considered and thought through.  The points I made in the article are ideas to consider when preparing for a home birth, unassisted.  There are probably some points I did not highlight.  Know your dreams and know your limits.  Trust your own gut feelings, intuition and knowledge. Know, that by taking responsibility for your decisions, and their outcomes, you are choosing empowerment. 

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