This week, Jen Aliano, creator of Natural Baby Pros, shares the importance of expectant mothers using education to empower their births. As she looks back on the births of her two sons, she also looks forward to the future of safe, natural, supported — healthy birth.
I would like to start by saying, “Congratulations!” Chances are if you’re reading this, you have already decided to empower and educate yourself on having the birth you want — the birth that is best for you and your baby.
But what does that mean for you? What are you doing to prepare yourself — and those around you — for the journey you and your baby are about to take?
Are you forgetting anyone?
Before I had my children, I was a practicing acupuncturist and nutritionist who specialized in fertility and women’s health. I treated many pregnant women, helping them with discomforts and preparing them for their upcoming births. By the time I became pregnant with my first son, I thought I was completely prepared for a natural childbirth. I read the books, took my Hypnobabies home study course (which was great!), and received regular acupuncture, exercise, made time for yoga …
I had an amazingly comfortable and healthy pregnancy, and looked forward to the experience of giving birth. However, when the time finally came, I realized — midway through labor — that while I was diligently preparing myself for birth, I had completely underestimated my need for support. The labor was long, and the hypnosis worked for a great part of it, but soon enough exhaustion kicked in and I became overwhelmed. I lacked a prepared birth partner, and had no experienced support besides that of the hospital nurse.
I birthed my first son with the ‘help’ of an epidural — but because of the epidural, I couldn’t feel the urges to push. My son was stuck for about an hour, and I tore significantly, requiring reconstructive surgery and months to recover. I still have pain to this day from the tear.
Determined the second time around to have a natural birth, and knowing my need for support throughout labor (from beginning to end), I hired a doula — which I would recommend to any expecting mother.
So, whose choice is it really?
It seems that, even before he was born, my second son has always had a schedule of his own. Starting at around 27 weeks, I began to have preterm labor contractions. At 29 weeks, I was fully effaced and starting to dilate. All the acupuncture in the world did not seem to help — it was as if my body was asking for and needing something else. Too many centimeters and a positive GBS (Group B Strep) test later, the decision to induce due to ‘concern for the baby’s safety’ was made. I headed to the hospital to be given antibiotics, and have my water broken, membranes stripped, and labor forced to start.
I still cry over this, and am tearing up as I write…
Though my baby was born on the exact ’37 week’ mark, according to an adjusted due date (one that had been moved up late in the pregnancy), I believe he was born prematurely. It was an extremely difficult first few months with him; a re-admission to the NICU, multiple trips to the Children’s Hospital, weekly blood draws, and so much worry and anxiety. He still has issues that require therapy, and even though they may not be directly related to his birth, I still try not to blame myself as I look back to the decisions that were made at his birth and think, “I wish I had known more, better, differently …”
Had I known then what I know now, I truly believe that I could have given my son a better start in life. But, had I known then what I know now, I also would not have started down the path I have followed since.
It’s important to learn from the experiences handed to us.
I believe strongly that our experiences shape who we are and give us the opportunity to share, teach and connect — to make a difference in the lives of others. There are some aspects of those experiences that we can control, and others that we cannot and must learn to accept – giving us the opportunity to learn, grow and affect others. Birth is no exception.
Know your options — before you need them.
I remember lying in bed at night after having the baby thinking that, as a health care provider myself, I should have known more about the options available to me and my baby. But, not knowing of any reliable resources available then, all I could do was ask the people I knew and trusted for their advice. Internet searches brought up mostly forums, where half the comments were speculative and the conversations only confused me more.
Today, it is my passion to educate others on holistic options for fertility, pregnancy, birth, postpartum and baby care; to make it easier for mothers to learn and become inspired — to use education as a source of empowerment.
Who is Influencing Your Decisions?
It’s obvious that we cannot be expected to know everything for ourselves; we need to be able to rely on our healthcare providers to the extent that they are able to guide us in making the best decisions for ourselves and our babies, while also knowing the right questions to ask — and when to ask them. Creating a well-rounded team of support in pregnancy, birth and beyond is the best way to ensure you are providing optimal care for yourself and your baby, as you begin your journey into a new life together.
Best of luck and health to you and your loved ones!
Jen Aliano is the co-owner and creator of Natural Baby Pros, a site dedicated to providing women options — from preconception through postpartum and baby care. It is her hope to empower parents and parents-to-be to make the best informed choices for themselves and their families on their journey into parenthood, through education, support, and connection. She is a wife and mother of two wonderful baby boys, who take up the majority of her time and attention, and whose births inspired Natural Baby Pros. Although she is not practicing at this time, Jen is also an acupuncturist, nutritionist, and holistic health practitioner by trade, specializing in the care and treatment of fertility issues, pregnancy, and the post-partum period.