Monday, September 5, 2011

Empowered Birthing

Welcome to the Empowered Birth Week Blog Carnival!

This post is part of the Empowered Birth Week Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Betsy Dewey. For this special event, the carnival participants have shared their perspective on Empowered Birth. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I've spent quite a bit of time lately thinking back through and reflecting on my birth experience. In some ways, the birth was not what I had imagined it would be (including preterm labor, followed by a long prodromal labor, and even a dislocated tailbone postpartum). Despite all that, I can't help but look back on the experience of birthing my baby with awe. I feel completely satisfied with how the whole thing progressed, but most of all after giving birth I feel like I could do anything!

There were a lot of choices I made that I think greatly affected not only the outcome of my birth, but also the way I feel about it today. Those choices (including home birth, midwifery care, and minimal interventions) were right for me, but I don't think there's any one formula that can guarantee an empowering birth experience for every woman. I believe that others can (and do!) experience empowerment from their birth experiences while making completely different choices than I did. The only requirement is that they are the right decisions for her.

Whatever you choose when it comes to the details of where, how, and with whom you'll give birth, here are the three basic qualities that I feel are integral for achieving an empowered birth experience:
  • Safety: Knowing how fear can affect the labor and birth process (and also increase pain, which I experienced during my preterm labor adventure), I wanted to feel as safe as possible during my birthing time. For me that meant staying home unless medically necessary and having a midwife who I knew and trusted attend the birth. I realize that for others this might mean being attended by an OB in the hospital, or using a birthing center, or even having an unassisted birth. Whatever it means to you, it's extremely important to feel safe.

  • Comfort: Similar to safety, I knew that for me to be able to labor and birth effectively, it would be extremely important to me to feel as comfortable as possible during my birthing time. I needed to feel free and able to move, act, and vocalize as I wished, to be in various states of undress without judgment or question, and to be in familiar and relaxing surroundings. This also meant that I needed our home (my chosen birthing space) to be clean and relatively orderly. For others, comfort may mean a familiar pillow (or several!) in your hospital bed, the ability to take a hot shower, or a calming scent from a candle or listening to soothing music.

  • Support: Whether this means your partner, a friend, a doula, and/or other birth attendants, most women like to labor and birth with the company of others. I had intended for more people to be at the birth than actually made it there, and this turned out to be perfect. I had just the right number and combination of people there (Jaymz, two midwives, and one apprentice midwife) to feel supported without feeling watched. I mostly craved the presence and positive energy of others, rather than physical support during my labor and birth. Most importantly, my support team communicated to me a deep trust in my body and a reverence for the birth process. There was really very little that was more important to me in that moment than feeling fully supported by the people around me. As I think back on the whole birth process, the things that are the most prominent in my memory are the ways in which those around me (near and far) supported me to give birth the way I desired. I believe every laboring woman deserves to be supported in the ways that feel best to her!

Giving birth has been the most empowering experience of my life so far, and I'm hopeful that I'll be lucky enough to do it again someday. The empowerment I experienced through giving birth to my son continues to manifest itself in my life in very real ways. I only wish more women could feel this way!

The Empowered Birth Blog Carnival was lovingly hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Betsy Dewey.

We invite you to sit, relax and take time to read the excellent and empowering posts by the other carnival participants:
  • Empowered Birthing - Amy at Anktangle shares a simple list of things that support an empowered birth experience.
  • Little Miss Green's Home, Water Birth Story - Mrs Green at Little Green Blog shares her (home, water) birth story. Even though it happened 10 years ago, the empowering feelings are the same to this day (and yep, it STILL makes her cry!). This post is also a tribute to her husband who was there mind, body and soul throughout.
  • Save Birth, Change The World - Toni Harman, mum and film-maker talks about the highs and lows of creating the ONE WORLD BIRTH film project dedicated to helping more women around the world have empowered births.
  • 12 Steps to an Empowered Natural Birth - Terri at Child of the Nature Isle wants to talk to all pregnant women and tell them YES they can have an Empowered Birth! This is her personal 12 step guide.
  • The Blessingway: a sacred blessing for birth - The Blessingway is a sacred ceremonial circle of women gathered with the intention of blessing and preparing a pregnant woman and her child to give birth. Betsy Dewey describes the beauty and the how-to of a modern Blessingway.
  • Hidden Talents - Darcel at The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe tells us why it's important to take control and be responsible for our own births. She says Informed Birth is Empowered Birth.
  • Empowering Birth in the Trenches - Over at Belly Tales, the Midwife explores what empowered birth looks like in an urban hospital with a vulnerable population.
  • An Empowered First Birth -  Zoie at TouchstoneZ follows the path she took to her first homebirth and finds she may not have started out as the best candidate for an empowered birth.
  • To be published on September 9th: Why Hasn't the World Stopped? - Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares an emotional story of the empowered and unassisted stillbirth of her daughter.
  • And this one to be published on Sept 12th: Empowered Birth: From the Personal to the Universal -  Zoie at TouchstoneZ questions the criteria for what makes an empowered birth and finds she has to let them all go.


  1. Although I know there was a very good physical reason that my birth experience with Kieran took so long (he was posterior and had a hard time fitting past my tailbone - which "broke" in the process), I also firmly believe that it was about half physical, half emotional. I was out of my comfort zone and did not feel empowered or supported by the midwife and her staff. They emanated an atmosphere of tension and "hurry up."
    Even though I haven't given birth yet this time, I already feel more empowered because we're choosing to labor and deliver at home with a midwife who is very supportive. I know our experience will be so much better for the exact factors that you mention here!

  2. wonderful post which shows such compassion and 'non judgement'. I agree completely that an empowered birth is all about what is right for the individual and love how you illustrated this with your own examples. It's not a formula that can be applied to all and I'm so thrilled that you felt empowered and that you could do anything once you had given birth - isn't that awesome!

  3. Amen. Here here, dear sister! When a woman is empowered for this unrivaled rite of passage, it becomes the greatest experience of her life! Like you, I wish every woman, man, and child was empowered to birth naturally! My 2,000,000 cents is in my new book BIRTHRIGHT Blessings! Betsy.

  4. Amy I love how you have distilled the essence of empowered birth: safety, comfort and support and reminded us that these features will be interpreted differently by everyone.

    I, like you, felt that a home birth with midwife offered me more of each of these and that was true for me. However I am able to also say that I had each of these in a hospital environment and experienced a beautifully empowered birth there also.

    Birth is an amazing rite-of-passage for women and it's a beautiful feeling to know once you have done this you can really do anything! More power to you and all women who choose an empowered birth!

  5. Safety is so important. A women must feel safe when she is laboring. That place will be different for every woman. While I sometimes wish my first birth had gone different, I believe it led me to this place I'm at now.

  6. I agree with everything you wrote, and I think this is a fabulous post for all women to read - regardless of what they believe their pregnancy and birth preferences are!

  7. This is one of those posts I wish could be pasted into the front of those mainstream birthing books. If the radical notion that birth is normal and women's bodies are powerful were freely available it might change the face of birth in the US

    I apologize for taking so long to comment. I needed some time to refocus on positive birth.

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