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Three Births

Every birth is unique. It’s a one-off that can’t be duplicated or redone. We can talk about the experience in a short-form birth story, and we can also imagine redoing it. However, what actually happened is what happened, just that one time, and will never happen again, to ourselves or anyone else. As you’re about to find out, while every birth story is unique, they also tend to contain similar factors: the three typical birth story elements:

  • Timeframe (“My labor lasted nine hours.” “I pushed for two hours and gave birth at 3 a.m.”)

  • Physical aspects (“I had terrible back labor.” “I pushed for two hours without any progress.”)

  • Effect of birth professionals (“I wanted a natural birth, but my doctor pressured me to have a cesarean because my baby was breech.” “I couldn’t have done it without my midwife/doctor/husband/doula.”)

Of course, these three elements come together to create a fuller birth story. What is usually absent in birth stories are the things we did for ourselves, and how our partners helped us.

Skills

You’ll notice few people mention childbirth “skills.” Sometimes, breathing and relaxation techniques are taught, but only superficially, in keeping with the birth trend since the 1980s that birth is an intuitive process and women don’t need to learn how to birth. Think about the differences between these words:

  • Information: The collected facts and data about a particular subject

  • Knowledge: Familiarity or understanding gained through experience or study

  • Preparation: A state of readiness

  • Education: Acquiring of knowledge through learning

  • Skills: The ability to do something well, usually gained through experience and training

When you attend your childbirth class, you will be given a great deal of information, education, and knowledge, which is vitally important in order to make your birth plans, exercise your choices, and learn about the process of vaginal labor or cesarean delivery, pain relief, and newborn care. But there is little specific childbirth preparation aside from making a birth plan. Where are the skills?

The following pages tell a birth story for the same couple—we’ll call them Erica and Will—from three varying perspectives, as though they experienced the same birth three times, each resulting in a different overall experience.

The first story is the “positive” experience. The word positive is peculiar when defining a birth. For example, a midwife might think a birthing mother handled her labor really well, but the mother herself might have hated every moment. A woman might consider her labor to be good because it lasted only a few hours, even though she thought she would die the whole time. Another woman might think she had a great birth, even though it was a non-laboring cesarean. A father might think any birth was positive because his baby was born healthy. Another father might think the birth was positive because the staff was great.

The second story is the “negative” experience. The word negative can be confusing as well. For instance, many women feel they had a terrible birth if they felt it was hard, difficult, out of control, or traumatic. A midwife might feel a birth was terrible because her client just gave up and opted for a cesarean when the midwife knew the woman could birth naturally. For a father, a birth might have seemed positive, when in fact his partner was so pissed off at him that she didn’t really speak to him for years afterward.

The third story is a “Birthing Better” experience. In a Birthing Better birth, birth is about the skills a mother and her birth support uses (not the birth professionals, but rather her husband, partner, friend, or relative). In other words, Birthing Better births focus on what we do for ourselves rather than what happens to us or around us.

Will’s Story: Positive Birth Experience

My wife started labor while out shopping in the afternoon. I was at work. Her due date wasn’t for a few days, so we had discussed how to be in touch if labor started. When we talked, she told me that she was coping fine, and she’d call if she wanted me home. I worked 30 minutes from our house. My stomach started to get excited. I was anxious for her, and the rest of the day dragged. I got home about 6 p.m.

Erica wasn’t very hungry, but I was starving, so I ate dinner. She was walking around the house and stopping every time she had a contraction. I noticed that her back began to hurt, because she kept putting her hands down there. After dinner, I made certain all our bags were packed and called the hospital. They told us not to come in until the contractions were five minutes apart and one minute long, so I started to time the contractions. I also started to rub her back whenever she wanted me to.

I think we got to the hospital about 2 a.m. The hospital was weird—all the bright lights and stuff. Erica got out of her clothes and into a blue gown. I felt a bit like a third arm and didn’t know where to place myself. The midwife came in and did all the checks: blood pressure, temperature, and an internal check. I don’t know what I think about that, but Erica seemed to cope fairly well with just some ouches and “Oh, that hurts.” I could tell she was beginning to have trouble with the pain, and really struggling to stay on top.

I was holding her hand throughout this, and boy, was she squeezing it hard. I had to take off our wedding rings. We had been told about this in our birth class, but I had forgotten. After the internal exam, Erica got up off the bed. She said the contractions weren’t as painful as when she was lying down.

Erica’s water broke very soon after. It just broke all over the floor. I remember thinking, “It doesn’t smell bad.” I think I may have been concerned that birth smells would turn me off. I’d found it hard during pregnancy not to be concerned with all the changes emotionally and to our sexual relationship. I was afraid having a baby would change our relationship more, and I’d be shut out.

Anyway, the midwife asked Erica if she wanted any gas. Apparently, she was too far gone to have an epidural. The contractions were much more intense now, but Erica decided she didn’t want any. The midwife was great; she was up near Erica’s head while I was rubbing her back. Erica was standing up and sort of swaying around. It was really intense, but we both seemed to be able to help in some way.

Then, at some point, I found myself breathing with Erica, and she told me it really helped her, so I kept doing that. Things started happening really quickly. The contractions changed or something; at least, her breathing did. I could hear her kind of grunting, and then she was bearing down with the contractions.

The midwife did another quick internal and told us she was fully dilated and then left the room. Suddenly, the room filled up with three midwives, all very busy. Erica was told to get into a sitting position on the bed, so I sat by her side. Everyone was busy getting out equipment. It was hard not to focus on that, but Erica was still having contractions. They seemed to have slowed down, and she was much more alert and present. She looked good.

She pushed a few times, but said she wasn’t comfortable and really seemed to struggle. The midwife suggested another position, and I helped her move Erica. Then the contractions really picked up. I was still holding her hand but could bend forward and begin to see our baby’s head. It was so exciting. It took a lot longer than I thought. Our baby wasn’t born for another hour and a half. Boy, was it hard work for Erica. Every time she pushed, her face got really red. The skin around the baby’s head looked very thin, and I was afraid Erica would rip, but the midwives seemed really relaxed and were very encouraging to her.

I was really proud of Erica. She was great. I’m not certain I was much use. In fact, I know I wasn’t, but I guess being there for her is what we’re meant to do. It was a great experience, and I got to cut the cord and hold our daughter while they stitched up Erica. She was sore for a few days but recovered pretty quickly. Breastfeeding was a bit of a struggle, and getting up at night was a bit of a struggle, too. I was awfully tired for weeks, but not as bad as Erica. After six weeks, we still haven’t been intimate, but that’s okay.

Will’s Story: Negative Birth Experience

Erica started labor while out shopping. I was at work. She was past her due date and feeling nervous about the birth, and so was I. She called me and told me to come home right away; the pains were really bad. I felt sort of sick to my stomach and nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, even though we had gone to the birth classes. I guess they were alright, but birth? What do men know? I got home about 6 that night.

Erica was vomiting, but I was starving, so I ate dinner. She hated the smell and started to gripe about it. She was walking around the house and would stop every time she had a contraction. She kept telling me her back hurt. What was I supposed to do? I tried to rub her back, but she snapped at me. She told me to go be useful and get our bags ready. Then she called the hospital.

I could tell she wanted to go right away. She was so irritable and in pain. I’ve never seen her so restless, but I guess that’s what women do when they give birth. I don’t know why she wanted me with her. The hospital is so big, and I’d only met our doctor once when I called.

They told her not to come in until the contractions were five minutes apart and one minute long. They told her to have me time the contractions. I tried to rub her back again, but she kept pushing me away, so I sat down to read a magazine. She yelled over to me when another contraction started, and I’d watch the clock. I told her when the contraction had stopped, but she yelled at me, “I know!”

I think we got to the hospital about 2 a.m. That was weird, with all the bright lights and stuff. Erica got out of her clothes and into a blue gown. I was definitely a third arm. I had no idea where to stand. The midwife came in and did all the checks: blood pressure, temperature, and then an internal check. Erica just freaked. I was angry with the midwife for hurting her, and I felt scared. The midwife seemed so cold, although she tried to reassure me. Erica was moaning and groaning with the pains, and her face was getting red and sweaty.

I was holding her hand throughout this, and boy, was she squeezing it hard. I had to take off our wedding rings. We had been told about this in our birth class, but I had forgotten. Erica tried to get off the bed, but another contraction would come and she’d lie down again. I didn’t know what she wanted, and I figured she’d tell me what I could do, so I just sat there holding her hand. After two attempts to get her up failed, she just lay on one side. She sort of curled up between contractions, and just groaned and moaned, and during the really painful part used swear words and said “Ouch, I can’t do this—ooohhhhh!”

Then she had to go to the bathroom; she just sprung right up. She got about three steps, and her water broke. It just broke all over the floor. What a mess. She told me to clean it up so she wouldn’t slip getting back to bed. I wondered what I was getting into, becoming a dad. Her pregnancy had been really hard on our relationship. She was so emotional, and we had no sexual relationship. I felt totally shut out. Now, I was with her giving birth to our baby, and I felt totally useless. Why did she want me with her? She was suffering to birth my kid. I felt terrible and ashamed. I really believe birth is a woman’s business.

Anyway, the midwife came back in and asked if Erica wanted any gas for the pain. Apparently, she was too far gone to have an epidural. God, I just wanted them to put her out of her misery. It was hard to hear her groaning, then screaming as the contractions got even worse. After they were over, she just lay there with her eyes closed. She let me wipe her brow with a cold towel. The midwife who came in and out didn’t seem to care at all that she was suffering. She tried to tell me that birth was like this. How could she be so callous?

The midwife tried to help Erica breathe better, but Erica didn’t really try. With so much pain, I don’t think I’d be able to breathe the way the midwife was telling her to breathe. After trying for 15 minutes, she left us alone.

Then I could hear a change in the sounds Erica was making, and she started to get more restless. I called the midwife in, who did another exam, which Erica just hated and kept trying to pull away from. The midwife was quite stern with her. She told us Erica was fully dilated. Suddenly, other midwives and our doctor arrived with all their stuff. I could hear her kind of grunting when the pains came, and then she was actually bearing down with the contractions. Suddenly, she was awake and talking to me! She looked better, but I didn’t have a clue how she could change so quickly.

Everyone was busy getting out equipment. She pushed a few times but said she wasn’t comfortable and really seemed to struggle. The midwife suggested another position, and I tried to help Erica move. She pushed my hands away and moved herself. I just don’t get women and birth.

She was making strange, animalistic noises. She was pushing so hard, and everyone was encouraging her. Her eyes were bulging. I couldn’t believe the effort. I began to see the baby’s head, and I started to get excited but also worried that something might be wrong. The head looked funny, all wrinkled with strange colors, but I didn’t say anything. It seemed to take forever. It had already been two hours, and that was some sort of time limit for the doctor. He told Erica that if she didn’t give birth soon, he’d need to cut her down there.

Boy, was it hard work for Erica. She really tried. The veins in her eyes popped, but the baby just was too slow in coming out. I got scared. The doctor cut her and told her to push. Everyone was yelling at her to “push, push, push,” but the baby still didn’t come out. I got even more frightened. The colors of the baby’s head were purple, blue, red, and white; it was all wrinkled.

After a few more contractions, the doctor set up the vacuum and applied the cup to the baby’s head. It took him three times to get him out. The midwives showed him to me and Erica quickly, then whisked him away. He didn’t cry right away, and they were working on him. Erica didn’t seem to care, and I didn’t know whether to stay with her or go be with the baby. Eventually, he cried, and soon they wrapped him up and handed him to Erica, who didn’t seem to be too interested. She was more interested in what the doctor was doing. Apparently, she tore really badly and needed heaps of stitches. Then I got to hold our baby. There he was, looking at me like he knew me.

I’m really proud of Erica. I know she suffered a lot, but she did it. I know I didn’t help much, but after the birth, although she was tired, she told me how glad she was that I had been there. She was sore for weeks and was very emotional. Breastfeeding didn’t work, and getting up at night to give a bottle made her more irritable. I just couldn’t do anything right. I was awfully tired for weeks, but not as bad as Erica. After six weeks, we still haven’t been intimate. She seemed so focused on the baby. I don’t know. I’m really proud to be a dad, and our son is beautiful, but Erica and I— I don’t know. Birth really changes women.

Will’s Story: Birthing Better Birth Experience

I definitely had an interest in learning what I should do to help my wife during the birth, but many of the books repeated themselves, and seemed focused more on the mother than on both of us, and were more about choices than what I could do. After you’ve read one book that talks about the progression of labor, you’ve read them all. And some of the diagrams are so confusing. I certainly couldn’t picture what was happening in Erica’s body.

We purchased the Birthing Better program online, not knowing anything about it except the website said it was about birth and coaching skills. We seemed to lack those, so we took the risk.

This was the best investment we’ve ever made. We practiced so many skills and how to prepare Erica’s body for birth. In our childbirth class, we learned what was going to happen, about our choices and what to expect. We were taught a little bit about breathing and relaxation, but nothing like our Birthing Better skills.

We learned how to work together as a team, how I could help her manage the pain, how to prepare her body, create space for our baby to come through, how to work through each phase of every contraction, and how she could relax inside and develop good breathing patterns. We even learned how to prepare her birth canal properly. That felt weird at first, but we understood the importance… and afterward, we were really glad we had.

I also learned tons about her body. Most important for me, I changed inside from being just a man who had a sexual and loving relationship to Erica to becoming a father whose job was to actually help Erica give birth. I don’t think this is acknowledged as being important for men.

Anyway, her contractions started at 3 in the afternoon, when I was at work. For weeks, she had been practicing her skills while going about her life. The skills went through my mind frequently while I was at work, too. I listened to the Birth Journey CD on my way to work several times, until I could really hear the difference in breathing, and what skills to use and when, depending on what I would hear.

I practiced the Pelvic Clock while doing tune-ups or other repairs so I would know exactly how long it takes to soften inside different places. I even used the Directed Breathing exercise several times in experiences I was having, including getting a rather painful tattoo. It was great. I think I realized that we weren’t just learning birth skills, but skills that I could use throughout my life.

We went through everything in Birthing Better until we felt confident. It was like preparing for the Olympics, and we had a great time doing it. The most amazing thing for both of us is how similar men and women’s bodies really are.

I loved doing the Hip Lift and Sit Bone Spread on Erica. Like most people, I just thought the pelvis was one piece before feeling how much space could be created for our baby, if needed, and how much mobility is in our bones. Then Erica did these movements on my body. I could feel how little tension can stop all movement in my pelvis, and this was definitely an aha! moment for both of us. This helped to cement in my mind and body that any tension, almost anywhere in the lower body, can stop the baby from moving through the inside space. There was one revelation after another with Birthing Better.

I used to think that practice was such a boring word, but, frankly, I loved these weeks of getting to know Erica’s body in this different way. More than that, each time we went through a different section of the DVD, I learned so much about the process of birth. Birth became three-dimensional to me, and I could totally understand my upcoming role. Birth stopped being an abstraction. Now I understood how big a baby really is, and totally know why there is pain connected with such a large object opening up that tight closure and then passing through Erica’s body. Even before the birth, I began to admire her courage to face this experience and totally committed myself to doing my best to help her.

Every day for the last few months, we honed our skills together. That might be just stopping for two seconds and breathing together, or I might just pass her by and touch one of her hips and wait for her to relax inside.

The internal stuff had to be done. I know Erica did some on herself when she showered, but she wanted me to help her know more about how much space she had inside and where the tightness really was. Some men might think this would turn you right off from seeing your wife as a sexual partner, but hey, she’s also going to be the mother of my child, and I had to make a change in my thinking and take a bigger view of our relationship. I know I really grew up during those weeks. I became a better man and came to understand my wife in a way I never thought possible.

What was amazing about doing the internal stuff was being able to feel how much space women have inside. Somewhere in the back of my head I guess I did wonder how a big head would fit out of something about the size to fit my penis. I had seen the charts and illustrations, those cross sections, in class and books, and the vagina is shown as a thin tube. Somewhere, I must have had a toothpaste cartoon going on in my head, where the baby’s head is squeezed out and then suddenly pops into shape once it’s delivered. But I knew that wasn’t real, so I guess I just thought that such a big object would rip its way through a narrow tube. That’s not right either.

There’s lots of space inside. But there’s also tight tissue. That was also amazing. Erica didn’t realize she had muscles inside or other tissue that could be tight or that she could consciously tighten up more or relax and soften. Once again, we discovered how easy it is for her to create tension and how that would stop or slow things down in labor. So we practiced how she could relax even when she was feeling pain. All I had to do is either play the Birth Journey CD or mention the word “pain,” and she would automatically tense up without always knowing she was. I could feel it! Then we’d work on having her soften and relax.

Birthing Better gave us a very specific birth language. We knew the same things and how to talk about them. Every day, we grew stronger and more capable. Thank goodness we did the learning over a few months, and every day or so. I can’t imagine people trying to cram it all in at once, which is how I used to study for exams—all at the last minute. At first, that’s what I suggested we do. I had no idea how much there was to learn and how great it would be to learn together. But let me tell you about our birth.

I knew Erica had to use the early contractions to coordinate her skills and learn how to use them, now that labor was really happening. We talked on the phone, and I reminded her to really begin to put the skills in place. It was terrific that she knew exactly what to do. And I could already hear how she appreciated that I knew the same thing. We felt so close, and we were so excited. All our practice was going to pay off. I had a few moments of “What if this doesn’t work?” but then I settled down. All the skills had made such common sense that I knew they would work, and today was the day for that work. I couldn’t wait to get home. I had a few more cars to work on, and then away.

When I came home from work, we began to come together as a team. She had back labor right away, but the Kate’s Cat maneuver really helped. She also worked in between every contraction with the Pelvic Clock and, of course, we used Directed Breathing to bring those two skills together. I could see her subtly expand inside her pelvis. And I could do it in my own body. That was wild. I felt I was doing the labor, too. It was so neat.

It was so simple to work together. I could also use the Deep Relaxing Touch to remind her where to relax inside her pelvis. It was terrific. We called the hospital, and they told us to come once the contractions were five minutes apart and one minute long. So, for several hours, we stayed at home and thoroughly enjoyed the time together.

We went to a hospital about 2 in the morning. The contractions were getting much more intense. The hospital was a bit of a buzz—so bright and fluorescent! But we had taken a tour and knew what to expect.

The more intense the contractions, the closer together we worked, minute by minute, with one or more of our skills. The midwife did an internal that Erica hadn’t wanted, but the midwife said she had to check Erica. During the internal, we didn’t miss a beat; we just used the Directed Breathing, Staying Open, and this was the first experience to show the effectiveness of the Internal Work. Every minute of the experience showed us how amazing the skills were. We knew we couldn’t control when another contraction would come or how painful it might be, but we could work at every moment to relax in some place or in some way. I can’t really explain this feeling. It’s incredible. Knowing about the 5 Phases really helped. I always knew there was some time during each contraction that I could help.

The midwife asked if Erica wanted any pain relief, like gas, but we felt we were coping. And she complimented us on how well we were working together. She said she rarely saw fathers who seemed to know how to help. This made me feel good. When the midwife had to do things like take Erica’s blood pressure and listen to the baby’s heartbeat, the midwife was fine that we were still working together. It seemed so natural. Without the skills, I think I would have stepped aside for the professionals and figured they knew what they were doing, so let them do it. But in reality, we were left alone a great deal between their visits in to check on us.

Her water broke shortly afterward. Erica and I just worked more closely through every phase of each contraction and the rest period, using one or more of our skills. She was sensational. I used her body language, facial expressions, and how her breathing sounded to know when she was coping within herself or getting a bit carried away by the pain. And yes, it was painful. I’m not certain the skills took the pain away, but I certainly could see that she managed the pain better with the skills. It wasn’t easy. And at one point, I absolutely knew that she would never be behaving like this if she didn’t have the skills, and I certainly would be scared half blind to see her in this pain. With Birthing Better skills, I knew what the pain was, where it came from, and how to help her cope with it. It’s like my heart opened to all of this. I wasn’t blind or deaf. I could see and hear exactly what was happening. It was like taking one step at a time and thinking “Okay, what do we do now…okay, that’s working…okay, let’s adjust that…okay, great.”

I could even tell which positions kept her open. She could tell when a position stopped the contractions from being effective, and then I helped her to subtly change positions.

The back labor was intense, and sure, it was tempting for her to get into positions that made the pain less, but I knew if she did that the labor would slow down and that she’d no longer be working with our baby’s efforts to come out. We had to keep that sort of bell-shaped curve of the contractions happening. Sometimes, when she just leaned forward a bit, I could hear the contraction go off, and I’d just remind her, and she’d bring the upper part of her body back up. I knew it took a lot of willpower to let every contraction be effective, but I know she was glad for my reminders. Afterward, she told me she didn’t often realize she was bending over, because she was really focused and concentrated on using one or more of her skills, and how grateful she was that I could help her bring everything together. We were a great team. I knew I was helping. She kept looking at me with such love, and in between even the most painful contractions she often thanked me.

She felt some pain in her hips, as well as in her back, so we did a few Hip Lifts that really helped. I periodically reminded her to do Kate’s Cat. That helped momentarily to ease the back pain, and she told me she could feel the back pain shifting as our baby moved down, and that encouraged her.

Then we worked together on the Sacral Maneuver, because she had a much-curved sacrum, and that was great. I could tell she had to use all her willpower and determination to continue to use her skills and really work with the labor. It was tempting to just lose it, but I wouldn’t let her. I was her rock and her outside manager. With my Birthing Better skills, I could immediately help her stay on top of everything.

She felt comfortable checking herself when the pains intensified, and I also checked her. We did that when we were alone, not when the midwife came in. It was so thrilling for me to feel the changes inside and feel our baby coming farther down. If I felt any tension inside, I’d just gently put my finger on the place, look up at her and that would help her direct her intentional relaxation to just that place and I could feel the tissue soften. It was wild. I tell you—this was all wild. I know I’m telling you about something intimate between me and Erica, but I just have to tell someone.

She began to push around 2 a.m. It took her a few contractions to find the position that worked best for our baby. She said she could feel him moving down. I loved this part of labor. Her back pain was gone, and pushing was obviously so satisfying. Her breathing sounded pretty animalistic, but I could hear the effectiveness of each pushing contraction and give her feedback. This was so exciting. I could see how her vagina was beginning to open with the baby’s pressure. I could see the outline of the baby’s head under the tissue. I could also see that the tissue stayed pink and opened really easily. Although I thought I had gotten my head out of the toothpaste cartoon, as our baby was opening her vagina, I thought, “That’s big.” I couldn’t even imagine that coming out my penis. Women are so totally amazing.

Because of the Internal Work, she opened easily without much of that burning ring of fire we had been warned about. Our baby was born half an hour later, so easily it was amazing! The birth was great. Erica was incredible. My level of respect has no limits. The midwives and our doctor couldn’t stop complimenting us, and told us we’d be the talk of the ward for weeks. We’re so proud of ourselves. She recovered so quickly that, a few hours after the baby, she said she didn’t feel like she had given birth—go figure that one, but I guess the internal stuff really helps with the healing, too.

I can’t even tell you how settled we felt with our newborn. Working together in labor has made it so much easier for us to learn about our baby and work together. It’s amazing. What else can I say?

Erica’s Story: Positive Birth Experience

I started to have contractions while I was out shopping, about 3 in the afternoon. I just kept doing what I was doing because the contractions were just a little painful. I called my husband at work but told him he didn’t need to rush back; I was fine. The contractions picked up about 9 that night. Will rubbed my back because I was having such bad back pains. It really helped. I called the hospital, but they told me to wait until my contraction They just kept getting worse and worse. I couldn’t cope, and Will didn’t have a clue. I just wanted something for the pain. By 9 p.m., the contractions were terrible, and I was losing it. We called the hospital again, but they didn’t want us to come until labor was established. It was established, as far as I could tell. It was really getting very painful.

I couldn’t rest. Will didn’t have a clue how to help, so he went to bed and told me to wake him. I tried walking, but the contractions came faster, and when I sat down to rest the pain was worse. I felt nauseous and had loose bowels. Finally, we went to hospital at 2 a.m. By then I was frantic from the incredible pain. I begged for something. The midwife told me she had to do an internal to check how far along I was. It was really rough and hurt. I hated it and freaked out. She told me it was too late to have an epidural, but she gave me some gas. Shortly after, my water bag broke, and the contractions got even worse and closer together. She kept telling me to calm down, but the back pains were so intense. How could I calm down? It was a nightmare. I thought I was going to die. I felt so out of control. The gas didn’t do much. I was so tired. I’d fall asleep between contractions, then wake up frightened, with another one in full swing. I sucked every bottle of gas dry. The midwife told Will to rub my back, but I hated it and kept flicking his hand away. I began to push at about 7 that morning, but couldn’t get comfortable. Everyone kept telling me what to do and I hated that. That burning ring of fire was horrible. I kept tensing up, and the doctor and midwives kept telling me not to. After two hours, our baby hadn’t been born, so they told me they had to do an episiotomy [cut] and use vacuum extraction. I didn’t give a damn at that point; I just wanted it over with. After the birth, they wanted me to hold him. I wasn’t really interested, but I was too ashamed to say anything. I was so relieved it was over. What a horrible experience. I had lots of stitches. I was sore for weeks. I was such a wimp. Will was useless, and there won’t be a next time. Erica’s Story: Birthing Better Birth Experience During the last few months of pregnancy, my husband and I worked through Birthing Better. We practiced so many skills and how to prepare my body for birth. In other books and our childbirth class, we learned what was going to happen, about our choices and what to expect. We were taught a little bit about breathing and relaxation, but nothing like comprehensive skills. We learned how to work together as a team. Some of the areas of skills we learned were how I could manage the pain, create space in my pelvis for our baby to come through, how to work through each phase of every contraction, and how to relax inside my pelvis and develop good breathing patterns. We even learned how to prepare my birth canal properly. That felt weird at first, but we understood the importance, and afterward, boy, were we glad we had done it. Will could feel and do almost all the skills, so I knew he was prepared. That gave me lots of confidence. My contractions started at 3 p.m., when I was shopping. For weeks, I had been practicing my breathing, relaxation, and staying-open skills while going about my life. I practiced the Pelvic Clock while driving to work; in fact, just about all the time! The Directed Breathing was a great skill to use to reduce all stresses that came up. Will even used it when he took a long bike ride and got tired, and then when he got his tattoo. We went through everything until we felt confident. Our birth was like preparing for the Olympics, and we had a great time doing it. The most amazing thing we discovered is how similar our bodies really are. And we wrote down the skills in a short form that we took to hospital. Anyway, I knew I had to use these early contractions to coordinate my skills and learn how to use them now that labor was really happening. Will was at work, and I talked to him on the phone. He reminded me to begin to put the skills in place. It was terrific that he knew exactly what I was doing and what I needed to do. We were so excited. All our practice would finally prove itself. When he got home from work, we began to come together as a team. I had back labor right away, but the Kate’s Cat maneuver really helped. I also worked in between every contraction with the Pelvic Clock and, of course, my Directed Breathing, bringing those two together and expanding inside my pelvis. It was so simple to work together. He could also use the Deep Relaxing Touch to remind me where to relax inside my pelvis. It was terrific. Although the back pain was annoying, I could cope. When I forgot to use the Pelvic Clock, then the pain increased. We called the hospital; they told me to wait until my contractions were one minute long and five minutes apart. We loved the time we had at home. We were so relaxed and excited. Everything felt so comfortable. We went to hospital about 2 a.m., when my contractions were five minutes apart and one minute long. They were getting pretty intense. But this just brought us closer together, working minute by minute with one or more of our skills. We totally understood the 5 Phases, and I could even tell whether a contraction was effective or not. We tried a number of positions; some would lessen the contractions, so I became aware of how to keep my labor progressive. That was so neat. The midwife did an internal that I hadn’t wanted on our birth plan, but she said she had to check me—hospital rules. We were prepared for changes like this. During the vaginal exam, we didn’t miss a beat; we just used the Directed Breathing and Staying Open skills; this was my first experience seeing the effectiveness of the Internal Work. She told me I was too advanced to have an epidural (which I didn’t feel I needed at all), asked if I wanted any pain relief like gas, but we felt we were coping really well. My water broke shortly afterward. Will and I just worked more closely through every phase of each contraction and the rest period, using one or more of our skills. He was sensational. He used my body language, facial expressions and how my breath sounded to know when I was coping myself or getting a bit carried away by the pain. And yes, it was painful. I’m not certain the skills took the pain away, but I certainly could manage it with the skills. It wasn’t easy. The midwives on duty and our doctor kept complimenting us on how well we were working together. The back labor was really intense, and, sure, it was tempting to get into positions that made the pain less, but I knew if I did that the labor would slow down and probably take longer, and I’d no longer be working with my baby’s efforts to come out. We did a few Hip Lifts, which really helped. Will periodically reminded me to do Kate’s Cat. That really helped to ease the intense back pain momentarily, and I could feel the back pain shifting as my baby moved down, so we both knew our baby was moving down more. That was encouraging to all the work we were doing. Then we chose to try the Sacral Maneuver, and that was great, too. I commented to myself that I had to use all my willpower and determination to continue with my skills and really work with the labor. It was tempting to just lose it, but Will wouldn’t let me. With his birth skills, he immediately helped me stay focused and on top of everything. I even felt comfortable to check myself to feel for change when the pains intensified, and Will also checked me. It was so thrilling for him to feel the changes inside and feel our baby coming down more. I began to push around 7 in the morning. It took me a few contractions to find the position that worked best for our baby. I could feel him moving down. I loved this part of labor. My back pain was gone, and pushing was so satisfying. Will could hear the effectiveness of each pushing contraction and gave me feedback. Because of the Internal Work, I opened easily, without much of that burning ring of fire I had been warned about. Our baby was born half an hour later, so easily—it was amazing! The birth was great. Will was terrific. We’re so proud of ourselves. All the midwives and our doctor told us we’d be the talk of the ward for weeks, and they wish more families would come prepared. I recovered so quickly. Will can’t shut up about the birth, and it’s brought us so much closer.