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buz
11-27-2011, 12:52 AM
There is some information on the internet about giving birth "way back in ancient times" and such, but it's very general things about mortality rates and which gods they prayed to etc. I want to know what it would have been like for a woman in some ancient culture to give birth, and by that I mean vertically, in a squatting position, without anesthesia, without the aid of someone with special training (no doctor, no midwife) but potentially with other women around to help. You know, back before we learned to make a big deal out of it so that people didn't die so much.

How would that go, from the woman's perspective? I know the basic stuff, and I've read accounts of no-epidural births. They all read something like "unimaginable torturous body-ripping pain that made me want to kill everyone and die, followed by the most fantastic glorious euphoria ever experienced by any man, woman, child, angel or dolphin," but if anyone has done this and can be more specific, I'd be grateful.

Don't be afraid to be graphic. I have an incredibly desensitized gag reflex. And I don't judge. Or know you.

As for being in some sort of a sitting/squatting position, how would that affect the process (other than not allowing professionals space to get their hands up in there)?

If you've given birth, did you poop yourself?

I mean, I want all the real details here...I can read generalizations and statistics and 'archaeological evidence this that blah blah' and the flowery pregnancy websites until I'm blue in the face but I'm looking for specifics, dirty or beautiful...from anyone who feels they can provide them (women's history buffs, anthro dweebs, people who have given birth in places other than a hospital and in odd positions...maybe in the car on the way?). Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you :)

escritora
11-27-2011, 01:22 AM
If you have Netflix, stream The Business of Being Born. I think you'll enjoy it.


How would that go, from the woman's perspective? I know the basic stuff, and I've read accounts of no-epidural births. They all read something like "unimaginable torturous body-ripping pain that made me want to kill everyone and die, followed by the most fantastic glorious euphoria ever experienced by any man, woman, child, angel or dolphin,"

More than half the women I know who gave birth say their thought was, "This is it?" Or some variation of that. But they faked happiness so they wouldn't come off as if they didn't want the baby. Of course, there are plenty of women who feel what you described.


If you've given birth, did you poop yourself?

I was a coach. Yes, she did poop herself. Not much, not full on. More like a turtle. And a nurse was there to clean her up. She was embarrassed by the poop and stopped pushing hard.


Don't be afraid to be graphic.

Childbirth isn't graphic. At least not the one I witnessed. The vagina totally transformed into something new. I really was a beautiful sight. The umbilical cord. Wow. Simply beautiful, like a purple and white ribbon.

Oh, one thing did go wrong that could be considered graphic, but it's not the norm. The nurse dropped the placenta on the floor and blood splattered all over.

Pistol Whipped Bee
11-27-2011, 03:41 AM
I want to know what it would have been like for a woman...to give birth, and by that I mean vertically, in a squatting position, without anesthesia, without the aid of someone with special training (no doctor, no midwife) but potentially with other women around to help. As for being in some sort of a sitting/squatting position, how would that affect the process ...?

If you've given birth, did you poop yourself?

Well, first - "other women around" to help is essentially the same as having numerous midwives - presumably some of those women had delivered their own children and therefore have 'special' training.

I delivered both my kids at home - on purpose. I couldn't be in the vertical with either kid because I got lightheaded. Childbirth hurts - a lot. It's impossible to describe it in the same way it's impossible to describe alcoholic withdrawl to someone who has never even had a hangover. Sure I can try - but you won't get it.

I have no idea what the numbers are, but I'm guessing that for many women childbirth goes over without much of a hiccup - and if there is one, it's small and easily manageable. So it's reasonable to conclude that a woman could catch her own newborn - at least with one hand - while she's squatting. Especially if she already has children because second/third babies usually deliver much faster. I think the mother would need something or someone to hold on to with the other hand though. I don't know that she could do it all without some kind of arm support.

Some women develop uncontrollable shaking in the legs. Squatting would really fatigue the thighs, but it would also expedite the delivery process because gravity would be aiding the mother's efforts.

Some women do poo themselves due to all the pressure of contractions, pushing and the infant's movement out.

Maryn
11-27-2011, 03:41 AM
I had our second child, now visiting from Boston, without drugs. He weighed over ten pounds. I was encouraged to use whatever position I wanted, since everything was going fine. I did not want to squat but to lie back at about a 45-degree angle. So I'm not sure your primitive woman would necessarily squat. She might well lie down, or be somewhere in between--and nobody in their right mind is going to argue with her decision.

It was not agony tearing me in two, or anything close to that. It was more like bad abdominal cramps, but with long rests in between. I expect everyone has experienced abdominal cramping at that level from illnesses like gastroenteritis. The need to push arrived and cold not be resisted for long. That part went very quickly and Kid Two squirted out so fast the OB literally caught him about two feet from my body. I spattered her and an intern with some blood. Both were unfazed.

It's not unusual to poop yourself when you push and push and push and push, especially when somethingone passing through the birth canal presses the rectum and sigmoid colon on the way. Nurses, OBs, and midwives are matter-of-fact about quickly tidying the woman. I can't recall if I did with the second child, but I did with the first, during which my induced labor was harder.

Both times, once the baby was born, even though there's still lots more labor, the state of euphoria was pretty intense (and this from a person experienced with recreational drugs) and lasted for many hours.

I felt pretty good and took a shower maybe fifteen minutes later, no problem.

Maryn, not some tough-guy stoic, for the record

L.C. Blackwell
11-27-2011, 03:43 AM
Maybe if you give us a more specific idea of the time period and geography/culture you're thinking of, we could help you a little better. As it is, I've no idea if you're thinking of a culture that, historically speaking, had fairly standardized medicine (Arab, Chinese, Jewish, Greek, Egyptian, etc.), or if you're looking so far back into pre-history that nobody has any clue what their medical practices may have been.

And I only say this because we have some fairly good historians around here, who may be able to help your knowledge base a little if what you're looking for matches their experience. :)

areteus
11-27-2011, 03:51 AM
Generally, the art of 'midwifery' came from the collected experiences of 'women who had been through it and knew stuff about it'. Pretty much every female in close proximity to the pregnant woman (old and very young) would be called in to attend in the 'pre-proper midwife days'. The old women because they had the experience, the young ones because they needed to acquire the experience...

Also, remember that any woman in any farm environment would have experience of lambing and calving....

Petroglyph
11-27-2011, 04:09 AM
You might seek out birth art images that date back to early times. In graduate school, we watched a slide show that included birth art through time. Two things were typical: female supporters and birthing with pressure against the feet (standing, squatting, birth chair or stool). Even in dorsolithotomy, women benefit from counterpressure on the soles of their feet.

Pooping during birth? Yes, it happens. Not a big deal. Just means everything is moving down and out.

Women have attended women for a long, long time.

This is a fun read:
http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/biology/b103/f02/web1/cphillips.html

Keep in mind, birth can be a dangerous prospect for both mother and baby. Birth is safe....until it isn't. Half a million women die around the world each year from birth. It makes sense to have someone around who has a clue. Made sense back in the day, makes sense now.

Devil Ledbetter
11-27-2011, 04:14 AM
I know the basic stuff, and I've read accounts of no-epidural births. They all read something like "unimaginable torturous body-ripping pain that made me want to kill everyone and die, followed by the most fantastic glorious euphoria ever experienced by any man, woman, child, angel or dolphin," but if anyone has done this and can be more specific, I'd be grateful.I've done it. It was labor. It was damned hard and damned uncomfortable at some points, but didn't make me want to lash out or kill anyone. I felt no anger or frustration at all. It was just something hard I had to get through. I did reach a point where I really wanted it over with and didn't care if I lived or died, so long as it ended. That point is called transition.

I spent that labor either walking the halls of the hospital, standing in the shower, sitting on a birthing ball (like a big yoga ball) or, at the end, kneeling. I did not lay down at all.

The great when it's over part of a drug free labor is that you're not numb anywhere, you don't have a spinal headache from some misbegotten epidural incident, you're not groggy or high, you haven't had major abdominal surgery. You're just relieved it's over, relieved the baby is okay and probably thrilled with the baby (all of this depends on a ton of individual factors, of course, YMMV and all that).


As for being in some sort of a sitting/squatting position, how would that affect the process (other than not allowing professionals space to get their hands up in there)? It helps things along quite a bit. Try taking a constipated crap lying down with your knees in the air and you'll see the useful difference between the "doctor's convenience" stirrups position and sitting, kneeling or squatting.

Giving birth lying flat on one's back, knees up, makes about as much sense as sleeping standing up. Both can be done, obviously. But why do things the hard way?

The thing to remember is that we are mammals, and a mammal's labor will stop when it's under threat. Being strapped to a monitor (and effectively chained to the bed) so your progress can be constantly judged by professionals can feel like a threat. Professionals declaring your labor isn't moving along quickly enough to suit them and it better pick up or they'll cut you open can feel like a threat. Is it any wonder that slow or stopped labor is extremely common in some of the typical hospital birth stories we hear?

I hope this helps.

Please note: my comments are no judgment on anyone else's birth choices or experiences.

jennontheisland
11-27-2011, 05:53 AM
My kid was facing posterior when labour started. In a hospital, that would have been an automatic c-section. I did it in a "birthing centre" with 2 midwives (one a nurse practitioner, one a MSc.), my nurse husband, a friend who was also pregnant with her third, and various friends and family.

The pressure on my lower back was horrible, but manageable with counter pressure from my friend. Lunging up stairs during contractions was annoying and not a comfortable way to be when trying to manage them, but we eventually did get him turned around.

The worst actual pain I felt was when I had some tearing during a push. Most tearing happens down, on the perenium, mine went up, to my clit. My friend laughed about it for a long time that in the middle of labour, I'd been nearly silent for hours and suddently I scream "My clit!"

Mostly, it was like Ledbetter said. But then, I went into it knowing I was in for work. It's long, phyically gruelling, and potentially dangerous, but I'd also worked to prepare myself for it, physically and emotionally.

I had a water birth, in a great big tub, with my friend behind me supporting my back/shoulders, and my husband in the catching position. Between them, and the fact that I was healthy, prepared, and come from a family that has never had any trouble with vaginal births, I had almost all the support I needed. The midwives even mentioned in at one point. Mostly I was in a modified squat position, with my feet on the side of the tub, and my hands on handles set into the edge of the tub so that I was pulling with hands and pushing with feet at the same time. Squatting works, but I think most women end up lying down because of the support. I had both the water and my friend holding me up so that as few of my muscles (and my energy) as possible were working on things that weren't labour.

I did poop during the contractions, and they had a little net they used to fish the poop out and then flushed it. A couple of friends who were in the other room thought it funny that they'd hear all the "go go go push push push" and then a flush; oops, there goes the baby!

Since he came out underwater, the boy was clean the first time I saw him, and there was no massive gush of blood after him. Eyes open, just looking around and shivering a bit. I didn't pay attention to much else, other than the fact that it felt like the umbilical cord was going to pull me inside out. I don't even know what it looked like, I just know I wanted it cut. The water was pretty murky, but we just drained the tub and showered me off.

Post labour there is a huge hormone rush which does leave you feeling more than a little high, but without the visual effects or munchies. I was pretty detatched from myself and reality and in absolutely no position to do anything that required thought. I'm sure if I needed to, I would have, but I didn't need to and I tend to take all opportunities to not think that are offered to me. Boy was born at 4 am after 28 hours, we were home and in bed by 6 and then spent the better part of 48 hours sleeping. Hardly euphoric.

Not exactly the body ripping (clit excluded) goriness you see and hear in movies.

Lillie
11-27-2011, 06:06 AM
I gave birth without any doctors, nurses, midwives, hospitals, medicines or painkillers.
It does hurt a bit, but I managed not to crap myself.

Perks
11-27-2011, 06:25 AM
How would that go, from the woman's perspective? I know the basic stuff, and I've read accounts of no-epidural births. They all read something like "unimaginable torturous body-ripping pain that made me want to kill everyone and die, followed by the most fantastic glorious euphoria ever experienced by any man, woman, child, angel or dolphin," but if anyone has done this and can be more specific, I'd be grateful.

I'm not going to say this doesn't happen, but hyperbole here, as in any fish story, is easily accessed.

I had an unmedicated birth. It was fun. We had a crowd and played dice in between contractions. They ordered a pizza. We played music we liked.

Everyone just had to shut the f*** up while I had contractions so that I could concentrate. A minute or so later, game on.

There was about half an hour where the contractions were too frequent and too distracting, so I took a shower. My low point was in the shower thinking, "Okay, if this gets any worse, I'm gonna be in a bit of trouble."

It didn't.

Then it was time to push. Very intense, but for me, pain isn't the same without the element of fear. Childbirth is certainly a very big, nearly consuming sensation, but it's not like severed-arm-on-the-highway pain. There's nothing wrong, it's just, well, big.

I had my sisters and midwife with me, but they did things like help me hold my leg up (I gave birth on my side to minimize tearing - don't ask how that worked out. Still, "tearing" sounds worse that it felt, because the nethers are every bit as numbed as your foot would be if you sat on it for a couple of hours.)

The sewing up afterwards was excruciating, but in a hideously ticklish way - not stabby.

I was elated to be alone in my body and not groggy from medications. It was a very good day.

Perks
11-27-2011, 06:28 AM
Oh, like DL, I also spent a lot of time sitting on a ball and never laying down on my back - that's a flat out bad idea.

jennontheisland
11-27-2011, 06:32 AM
For me, it was hands and knees because of the posterior thing.

Modern humans have been conditioned to think pain is some kind of horrible thing that no one should ever have to endure. Olden times humans knew it was part of life and something that every human is capable of enduring.

buz
11-27-2011, 06:43 AM
Wow, thanks guys! Good to hear all this. Exactly what I was looking for...actual perspective from real people. Tons of thanks :)

Petroglyph
11-27-2011, 07:02 AM
My kid was facing posterior when labour started. In a hospital, that would have been an automatic c-section. .

This may be the case with hospitals where you live, but this is not the case across the board. I just don't want anyone to get scared that just because her baby is OP, she needs a c/section if she is at a hospital. I have caught many many OP babies in a hospital setting.

ETA: Your birth sounds really lovely and it was great you had such wonderful support.

Devil Ledbetter
11-27-2011, 07:35 AM
Still, "tearing" sounds worse that it felt, because the nethers are every bit as numbed as your foot would be if you sat on it for a couple of hours.)

The sewing up afterwards was excruciating, but in a hideously ticklish way - not stabby.
Numb? Color me chartreuse with jealousy. I tore over an episiotomy scar from my previous birth. It burned so badly I was certain they were cauterizing me for some insane reason. I said "Why are you burning me?" and they said "We're not. You're tearing." It was so messed up and ragged they couldn't even stitch it. Just left it. I bled fresh blood from that wound and the resulting hematoma for something like 10 straight days, maybe longer. Barf.

My lady bits healed eventually but they won't be winning any beauty pageants.

The happy ending to all this is my son had a true knot in his cord. Had we known ahead, we'd have opted for a C-section. Had we not known and had a drugged labor and/or one slowed by the standard interventions, he might have ended up with brain damage or been still born due to a cord accident (http://miscarriage.about.com/od/stillbirthcausesrisks/p/cordaccident.htm).


Modern humans have been conditioned to think pain is some kind of horrible thing that no one should ever have to endure. Olden times humans knew it was part of life and something that every human is capable of enduring. I told myself I didn't have the luxury of thinking of it as pain. When a contraction hit, I'd say "the baby is coming." After transition, when things got too intense for complete sentences, I met each overwhelming contraction with an exuberant "YES!" It made everyone in the room laugh, and made me laugh, and I believe that eased my pain more than any synthetic pain reliever could have.

Karen Junker
11-27-2011, 07:57 AM
I had an child born without medication or a doctor -- a nurse was there and caught him. I had walked myself to the hospital (I walked several miles a day during pregnancy) and the baby came around ten minutes after I got there. I did poop, but the nurse just cleaned it up and I gave another push and the baby was born.

This was my third birth -- the first two were medicated. The first took 7 hours and the second took 4 hours.

My after birth euphoria was cut short after a couple of days when I realized my other son's brain tumor had recurred--he started to have paralysis symptoms. I walked my 4-year-old daughter, my 2-year-old son and my 2-day-old infant back to the hospital and entered into the nightmare process of my 2-year-old's death.

Canotila
11-27-2011, 11:03 AM
Both of mine were unmedicated. My daughter took about an hour of actively pushing after seven hours of labor contractions. It was sore, but okay because it didn't hurt between contractions. By the time she was almost out I was so exhausted I was dozing off between contractions. She came out fine, they laid her on me and she kicked me in the gut real hard and oh my gosh that hurt more than the contractions did.

My son was very different. They accidentally broke my water while checking to see how dilated I was. I immediately starting having very powerful contractions. They came so fast and close together that I couldn't rest or relax at all. He was born half an hour later with lots of hemorrhaging, yelling running nurses, and my husband sobbing. He had the cord around his neck and aspirated a bunch of fluid on the way out because it went so fast, but they had an anesthesiologist in the room to resuscitate him. I'm still not clear whether that had to happen or not, of if they just cleared all the junk out of his airway (he's fine and healthy now with no apparent damage).

The second time I couldn't stand or walk by myself for a couple days because of the blood loss. The first time I was totally fine, it just felt like I had run a marathon and wanted to sleep for hours.

One thing nobody warned me about was that post-labor contractions in subsequent children hurt a lot more. As you're nursing a baby, it triggers contractions which are designed to shrink the uterus back down and slow the bleeding. The second time around it hurt as bad as the labor contractions. Uterine massage really sucks too.

Also, I had no idea I'd torn until after they stitched me up and told me about it. The stitches didn't even hurt afterward. Everything seems to have healed up the same as it ever was.

As far as pooing, I have no idea. I asked the nurses not to tell me if I did because I didn't want to know. I doubt it, because both times the contractions irritated my bowels horribly so they were pretty empty by the time I was ready to push.

kuwisdelu
11-27-2011, 12:06 PM
My after birth euphoria was cut short after a couple of days when I realized my other son's brain tumor had recurred--he started to have paralysis symptoms. I walked my 4-year-old daughter, my 2-year-old son and my 2-day-old infant back to the hospital and entered into the nightmare process of my 2-year-old's death.

I have nothing else to add to this thread besides my sympathy for that. I wish the best for him in whatever may lie beyond this world.

lastlittlebird
11-27-2011, 01:06 PM
Some women develop uncontrollable shaking in the legs. Squatting would really fatigue the thighs, but it would also expedite the delivery process because gravity would be aiding the mother's efforts.

I've never given birth, but I have lived in a country where squatting to go to the bathroom is the norm.
And you would not believe how quickly you get used to sitting in that position for long periods of time.
(I guess it helps if you are also in a country where various stomach upsets are common.)

I know that if you were giving birth, you'd obviously be very tired and in pain, but I could easily imagine a woman who was used to squatting not thinking twice about doing it to birth her baby.

skylark
11-27-2011, 01:25 PM
Karen, I'm very sorry for your loss.

Going back to the original question, I'm just going to say that you need to be careful of the "natural childbirth is easy and wonderful, medical interventions are completely unnecessary" obvious extension to the way it works for many people.

It doesn't work for everyone, and when it doesn't, if you don't have medical intervention, you are dead, or at the very least your baby is.

If you want for your character's childbirth to be easy and really fairly pain-free, that's perfectly plausible. My SIL had her third on the bathroom floor having not even known she was in labour until about 3 minutes earlier.

But even if it's that easy for her, she will know lots of people for whom it wasn't at all easy, or who didn't survive the experience. She isn't going to expect it to be guaranteed easy.

FWIW, I didn't poop myself, but that's probably because I'd emptied myself astonishingly thoroughly in early labour. I think any more than that would be TMI :)

shaldna
11-27-2011, 01:48 PM
I gave birth with no pain relief, at all, with minimal assistance.

I also kept falling asleep between contractions :)

In total my labour took about 40 mins start to finish.


I want to know what it would have been like for a woman in some ancient culture to give birth, and by that I mean vertically, in a squatting position, without anesthesia, without the aid of someone with special training (no doctor, no midwife) but potentially with other women around to help. You know, back before we learned to make a big deal out of it so that people didn't die so much.

When you are in that stage there is a natural instinct to kneel on hands and knees, rather than squat. Squatting is uncomfortable, results in pins and needles in the legs, it's difficult to maintain balance etc. Given the choice most women would kneel automatically as it takes teh pressure of the back. Laying on your back is uncomfortable also.



How would that go, from the woman's perspective? I know the basic stuff, and I've read accounts of no-epidural births. They all read something like "unimaginable torturous body-ripping pain that made me want to kill everyone and die, followed by the most fantastic glorious euphoria ever experienced by any man, woman, child, angel or dolphin," but if anyone has done this and can be more specific, I'd be grateful.

I had no pain relief at all. My contractions started initially like stomach cramp, gradually increasing and getting more painful, although not unbearable and I was still able to go about my business. My waters broke while I was having a nap, and it was literally like a gush of warm water, with a strange smell that was clearly not urine.

After that things happened very quickly for me, but I was so tired that I was falling asleep between contractions. When I was in the labour room I had two midwives watching me, one was a student, and a student doctor because apparently my labour was 'textbook'. But they just watched and didn't really interfer until the baby was born.

It was sore, don't get me wrong, and the urge to push is immense, and it's very hard when they tell you to stop pushing, because every single bit of your body wants to push more. The hardest part was the head. I didn't feel like I was being 'torn in two' or anything, but I felt kind of stretched beyond the elastic point, if that makes sense. I didn't feel that I would 'open' anymore to allow a baby through.

Once the head was out I leaned forward slightly to see and then the rest of the baby came out in a sort of whoosh.

Now, people like to tell you that's when the pain stops and everything is wonderful, but it's not.

My contractions continued until the afterbirth was expelled - which felt weird and warm and soft coming out, and happened very quickly also. Then they just stopped, immediately the pain was gone.




As for being in some sort of a sitting/squatting position, how would that affect the process (other than not allowing professionals space to get their hands up in there)?

Squatting is, like I said above, very awkward and uncomfortable. Bear in mind that labour can take hours. Your legs go to sleep, you have no support and your balance goes. It doesn't feel natural to be in that position at that time, you have a desire to stabilise yourself, to find something to anchor your self to.



If you've given birth, did you poop yourself?

I didn't, but I know a lot of people who did.

Also, what they don't warn you about is that after the baby comes for a couple of weeks you are so bruised internally that you often can't feel when your bladder is full and may pee yourself - I did this and it was awful.

To be honest giving birth was no where near as bad as people (or Hollywood) would have you believe. Rarely is it as dramatic or as filled with complications.


EDIT: Tearing

Trust me, you don't feel it when it happens. You are so caught up in other pain that it's a bit of a surprise when they tell you.

The stitches were uncomfortable, mine weren't individual stitches, but running ones, and let me tell you that they caused the most trouble.

Getting up and down out of a seat was sore, peeing was excrutiating because you are, essentially, urinating on an open wound (good job urine is sterile then). That was the uncomfortable bit of the whole thing, and built into that is the knowledge that you have stitches there and 'need to be careful'.

shaldna
11-27-2011, 01:59 PM
birthing with pressure against the feet (standing, squatting, birth chair or stool). Even in dorsolithotomy, women benefit from counterpressure on the soles of their feet.


This.

It's hard to describe to someone who hasn't had a baby, but you have this desire to brace yourself against something and to use it as an anchor to push yourself against. I don't know why,but it's this overwhelming urge and it really does help.

heyjude
11-27-2011, 04:36 PM
Going back to the original question, I'm just going to say that you need to be careful of the "natural childbirth is easy and wonderful, medical interventions are completely unnecessary" obvious extension to the way it works for many people.

It doesn't work for everyone, and when it doesn't, if you don't have medical intervention, you are dead, or at the very least your baby is.

Definitely this. My first labor was a nightmare of unbelievable proportions. I had a midwife who didn't realize soon enough how badly things had gone. The important thing is that my daughter was born healthy. We never would have made it, either of us, before the advent of the c-section.

Psychomacologist
11-27-2011, 05:41 PM
Something on the more 'horror story' end of things:

One of my friends is a doctor, and as a student in the maternity ward she had a patient who died in childbirth. In the UK, circa 2010. She was a young woman, early twenties, first baby; there were complications after the birth and she bled out and died.

She also told a story of one of her lecturers, who as a young final-year medical student saved a woman's life after she gave birth. On an airplane. it was one of those classic "is there a doctor on the plane?" moments, and he was the closest thing to an actual doctor. The story goes, the woman gave birth but the afterbirth wasn't coming out, and he had to desperately recall his medical training and remember what to inject her with to induce contractions. (Oxytocin, for what it's worth)

Post-birth blood loss is still the biggest cause of birth-related deaths in the world, and likely would've been in ancient times too. Back then, blood transfusions weren't an option either.

Perks
11-27-2011, 05:41 PM
Numb? Color me chartreuse with jealousy. I tore over an episiotomy scar from my previous birth. It burned so badly I was certain they were cauterizing me for some insane reason. I guess numb-ish is more accurate. I felt it, but it wasn't as horrifying as it sounds. Mentally, it was very alarming, so I kept pausing during the pushing, but the actual sensation was limited (thank god.)

inspiredbymusic
11-27-2011, 06:43 PM
I gave birth to my second child without an epidural or any pain meds. I had hoped to do this, but (much as I hate to admit it) at one point I would have given anything for that epidural. However at that point it was too late. The pain is like a severe, severe cramp of one's entire midsection. I felt sort of devastated by pain after both my children's births. I agree with others that the tearing or cutting of private parts is not painful; it is numb down there at that point. There was euphoria after my daughter's birth. I felt as if I saw and connected with her soul. It was beautiful. With my first child it was a less emotional moment, possibly because of the pain meds, which didn't work anyway.

Petroglyph
11-27-2011, 08:13 PM
To the OP, I hope you notice the thread linking all of these stories.

Women, for the most part, remember and are passionate about their births. Sometimes they go really well. Sometimes they don't, and they are scary experiences.

Sometimes, as with Karen's memories and experience, they are linked with heartbreaking tragedies of lifechanging proportions. My condolences, Karen, on the loss of your son.

Back to the OP, birth can be a powerful thing to include in your story. It can be a rite of passage---or, depending on the character, possibly no big deal at all. It can bring people together and create bonds between people who had previously been strangers or even adversaries. It can be used to illustrate attitudes toward women and children, both positively and negatively. You can make it warm and fuzzy or tragic with far-reaching implications.

buz
11-27-2011, 08:50 PM
Maybe if you give us a more specific idea of the time period and geography/culture you're thinking of...Too right. Ancient Egypt. (Pre-Old Kingdom. Super ancient.) Basically I have "women would squat on a brick." There's the medical papyri about inducing labor/contractions, spells for protection and whatnot, but I'm trying to get a feel for...you know, how it feels.



Keep in mind, birth can be a dangerous prospect for both mother and baby. Birth is safe....until it isn't. Half a million women die around the world each year from birth. It makes sense to have someone around who has a clue. Made sense back in the day, makes sense now. Indeed, that does make sense and you are spot on; unfortunately the character doesn't have the luxury. Poor character. Lucky for her, she and her baby have to survive for me to finish the story.


Going back to the original question, I'm just going to say that you need to be careful of the "natural childbirth is easy and wonderful, medical interventions are completely unnecessary" obvious extension to the way it works for many people.No no, I'm well aware that there were a lot more mothers and babies dying in the process before decent medical interventions existed. This particular character has zero access to medical interventions, though, and I was just trying to get a feel for what that would be like. Didn't mean to start a debate or anything. :)



To the OP, I hope you notice the thread linking all of these stories.

Women, for the most part, remember and are passionate about their births. Sometimes they go really well. Sometimes they don't, and they are scary experiences..

Definitely. That's why I wanted firsthand opinions (and I got some pretty fabulous ones--thank you guys so much). I've never given birth and can't fathom what it's like. I'm also a flippant bitch who has some trouble writing emotional scenes like this. Reading history books and pregnancy sites and all that sort of gives a shell of it but not the kind of view I wanted.

Also, not to be redundant, but Karen, thank you for sharing your story, and I'm really sorry...that's yet another thing that I cannot fathom going through.

You all have been awesome. Thank you so much for educating me :)

Question about the hands and knees thing/bracing against stuff phenomenon, just so I can get a clearer picture: By hands and knees, you mean like down on the floor in a horizontal sort of way? Or is it more like, I dunno, leaning up against something with your hands...? What would you brace against? (Or is this different for other people...no urge to get on hands and knees but an urge to brace your feet against something...what position would have felt natural then?)

Basic situation is that the character is in this little house with one other person (who has never given birth/has no idea how it goes) sort of in the middle of nowhere and goes into labor. Let's say there's a bed, a stool, sparse furnishings, maybe a birthing-brick (a brick that you apparently squat on--haven't decided whether or not to throw that in). If you could be in any position (lying on the bed--I'm getting a feeling that people don't want to be in this position at all--or squatting on the stool/brick, or on your hands and knees on the floor, or in a sort of sitting position with your feet against the wall, etc) what you be naturally inclined to do?

Any other birth stories (spatial positioning-related or no) or historical opinions are also welcome :)

Devil Ledbetter
11-27-2011, 09:15 PM
My after birth euphoria was cut short after a couple of days when I realized my other son's brain tumor had recurred--he started to have paralysis symptoms. I walked my 4-year-old daughter, my 2-year-old son and my 2-day-old infant back to the hospital and entered into the nightmare process of my 2-year-old's death.Karen, that is truly heartbreaking. I am so sorry.

jennontheisland
11-27-2011, 09:20 PM
Question about the hands and knees thing/bracing against stuff phenomenon, just so I can get a clearer picture: By hands and knees, you mean like down on the floor in a horizontal sort of way? Or is it more like, I dunno, leaning up against something with your hands...? What would you brace against? (Or is this different for other people...no urge to get on hands and knees but an urge to brace your feet against something...what position would have felt natural then?)

Basic situation is that the character is in this little house with one other person (who has never given birth/has no idea how it goes) sort of in the middle of nowhere and goes into labor. Let's say there's a bed, a stool, sparse furnishings, maybe a birthing-brick (a brick that you apparently squat on--haven't decided whether or not to throw that in). If you could be in any position (lying on the bed--I'm getting a feeling that people don't want to be in this position at all--or squatting on the stool/brick, or on your hands and knees on the floor, or in a sort of sitting position with your feet against the wall, etc) what you be naturally inclined to do?

Any other birth stories (spatial positioning-related or no) or historical opinions are also welcome :)
Hands and knees, like a baby crawls around on the floor. For me, the hands and knees thing was because of the posterior position. I didn't feel pain in my belly during contractions at all; the pain was entirely in my lower back. It felt like the scene from Aliens where the alien pops out of the guys chest... except my kid was trying to get out through my lower back. By being on hands and knees, I had gravity working against him, and my back was available for my friend to push on. And I mean *push*. She was on her knees next to me, both hands on my lower back, pushing down for the entire duration of my contractions. Some women do have "back labour" and I figured I would since my period cramps would often be in my lower back. The posterior thing only made it worse.

The "brick" in your research may just be representative of some kind of clean (relatively so) surface. You can't exactly sweep and wash a dirt floor.

While I was in the squat position in the tub, my friend was behind me, holding me up. Between contractions, I was floating forward with my head on one of those kick boards they give to little kids. I can't imagine not being physically supported some how. With my feet on the side of the tub in a modified squat, I would have been laying flat on my back in the water. Absolutely not the position I wanted to be in. But floating, I needed something to hang on to in order to keep the top half of me upright. That's where the handles came in.

If I hadn't been in the tub, I likely would have been either squatting with someone holding me up from behind, or on my hands and knees with someone catching from behind. I have seen pictures of women giving birth on hands and knees. It's apparently a common "alternative" birthing position.

Petroglyph
11-27-2011, 09:22 PM
Hands and knees is being on all fours and can be a good way to push out a baby. I hadn't heard of the birthing bricks but I just googled them. A strong girl could squat for pushing with one foot on each brick, especially if it has cultural or religious meaning to her.

A short description of labor (lots of normal variations)
The last couple weeks of pregnancy, women often experience painless tightenings or even lower uterine cramps (feel like menstrual cramps). She may notice increased vaginal mucousy discharge or a small amount of bleeding. The cramping, tightening, discharge and small amount of bleeding may also follow intercourse, if applicable to your character and story.

When labor happens, the tightening and cramping become closer and more painful, until, for most women, they are about 3-6 minutes apart. When she has one, she might not be able to speak or move, but in between she might feel agitated and like moving around.

She might be scared and overwhelmed by all that she is feeling.

Her water may break and it can be a lot, cups of warm fluid running down her legs. She will probably continue to leak and gush. The bloody mucus may increase and be on her thighs. She may shake and throw up---both are signs that birth is near.

She may urinate or poop or both are birth draws closer.

She will likely feel a strong urge to push, which many women verbalize as a need to have a bowel movement. This is when she may choose to squat (with or without support) on the birth stones (speculating here, not an expert in ancient Egyptian birth). She will feel the urge to push with each contraction and will lower herself into a squat and push. Assuming all is well, she may push for just a couple of minutes to several hours. I find that women without medication (like your Egyptian girl) are very efficient at getting babies out.

When the head crowns, it feels like burning and she may instinctually gasp to relieve the pressure. Often there is enough natural lubrication to ease the birth of the head, but you could see what else might be present in a small Egyptian home...olive oil?

She may tear. I have no idea how ancient Egyptians fixed perineal lacerations, but I know some people use seaweed. Consider honey as a laceration healing aid. (I use neither of these, but I can imagine ancient Egyptians might)

The placenta takes anywhere from a couple of minutes to a few hours. If she knows to nurse the baby right away, this will aid the birth of the placenta. The cord coming out of her vagina with lengthen, she may feel a warm gush of blood, and then she will feel like pushing again. The placenta is a large disc with a smooth membranous side and a lumpy maternal side. It can be the size of a dinner plate, usually smaller, and is a few inches thick. It will be warm when it is born but will feel cold soon.

Nursing the baby and massaging her belly in between her belly button and pubic bone will help her uterus contract. SHe may gush blood and feel more cramping. Once massages, her uterus will be the size and shape of a softball.

Again, I have no clue about ancient Egyptian birth rituals, but ingesting parts of the placenta may assist with reducing bleeding. She may have a placental burial ceremony.

What to do with the cord? Well, there really is no need to cut it right away. It's easy to mess up. The kid can get a bad infection or bleed to death if done poorly. You can look at lotus birth and see if it fits your characters' situation, although it needs to be treated with herbs or whathaveyou to not get too gross. The cord will dry and fall off in a couple of days if left alone for most babies.

Please excuse all my typos.

buz
11-27-2011, 10:02 PM
A strong girl could squat for pushing with one foot on each brick, especially if it has cultural or religious meaning to her.

Oy, right, sorry, it's two bricks. You've got that part right. Higher class women had a stool with a hole in it, apparently, but I'm not looking to get all fancy.


Consider honey as a laceration healing aid. (I use neither of these, but I can imagine ancient Egyptians might)

Egyptians used honey for a lot of things, but I think in the case of perineum injury they used oil (from a line in a medical papyrus)...course they could slap some honey on there too. Actually one of the concoctions supposedly designed to induce contractions was comprised of milk, honey and carob.



Again, I have no clue about ancient Egyptian birth rituals, but ingesting parts of the placenta may assist with reducing bleeding. She may have a placental burial ceremony.

Thank you for bringing this up. Was so worried about getting through the birth I forgot about the afterbirth...which, you're right, was important to the Egyptians. Haven't been able to find any references to specific rituals for people who weren't kings, but the placenta was associated with the spiritual double (ka) and it would have been shameful for me to forget it. :)


If I hadn't been in the tub, I likely would have been either squatting with someone holding me up from behind, or on my hands and knees with someone catching from behind. I have seen pictures of women giving birth on hands and knees. It's apparently a common "alternative" birthing position.

Ah, okay. :) Getting a good idea now. Thank you so much for the detail!

Again...responses continue to be wonderful and extremely helpful. Many thanks!

shaldna
11-27-2011, 10:21 PM
Egyptians used honey for a lot of things, but I think in the case of perineum injury they used oil (from a line in a medical papyrus)...course they could slap some honey on there too. Actually one of the concoctions supposedly designed to induce contractions was comprised of milk, honey and carob.

Honey is amazing. We use it a lot on the farm for the treatment of wounds. Honey is naturally antiseptic and it keeps the skin soft, preventing a hard scab which means it won't split or crack, thus preventing further infection.

shaldna
11-27-2011, 10:23 PM
Also, what no one has brought up here, is the completely irrational thoughts that come to you when in labour, and the things that you think, or that seem to be the most important things in the world.

For instance, I screamed at the poor midwife and my partner to turn the radio off because it was couples hour and I WAS NOT going to have Mariah Carey provide the soundtrack to my labour

Psychomacologist
11-28-2011, 12:10 AM
When my friend had her baby, they gave her gas for the pain and it made her really high and talkative. In between contractions she was regailing the nurses and midwives with interesting facts about randomm countries.

Silver King
11-28-2011, 04:23 AM
...Question about the hands and knees thing/bracing against stuff phenomenon, just so I can get a clearer picture: By hands and knees, you mean like down on the floor in a horizontal sort of way? Or is it more like, I dunno, leaning up against something with your hands...? What would you brace against? (Or is this different for other people...no urge to get on hands and knees but an urge to brace your feet against something...what position would have felt natural then?)
My great-grandmother gave birth to twenty-three children and delivered most of them herself with little or no help. She used a heavy dining chair set on its side to support her back while seated on the floor, knees bent and feet pressed against a wall.

She got petty good at it after a while and used to joke, though she was serious about the event, "I'm gonna go have my baby now. I'll be back in a few minutes."

MeretSeger
11-28-2011, 06:03 AM
Oy, right, sorry, it's two bricks. You've got that part right. Higher class women had a stool with a hole in it, apparently, but I'm not looking to get all fancy.



Egyptians used honey for a lot of things, but I think in the case of perineum injury they used oil (from a line in a medical papyrus)...course they could slap some honey on there too. Actually one of the concoctions supposedly designed to induce contractions was comprised of milk, honey and carob.


.

Thank you for bringing this up. Was so worried about getting through the birth I forgot about the afterbirth...which, you're right, was important to the Egyptians. Haven't been able to find any references to specific rituals for people who weren't kings, but the placenta was associated with the spiritual double (ka) and it would have been shameful for me to forget it. :)



Ah, okay. :) Getting a good idea now. Thank you so much for the detail!

Again...responses continue to be wonderful and extremely helpful. Many thanks!

The bricks even had names. Meshkhenet was the personification of one of them, and she was depicted as either a brick or a uterus. Being in labor was called "being on the bricks".

Honey was used for any cut because of its natural antibiotic properties. The convolvulus vine was used to stimulate contractions and stop bleeding, so you might find that useful for your story if they know any plant-lore.

just a gynecological papyrus for fun:
http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/kahunpapyrus.htm

veinglory
11-28-2011, 06:12 AM
IMHO "legit" midwifery goes back much further than legit medicine. For most of the last 300 years you would be much better of with a midwife than a doctor.

areteus
11-28-2011, 01:53 PM
Generally, in most of the history of midwifery, if you had to call in a doctor there was trouble... and often the doctor didn't solve that trouble either...

shaldna
11-28-2011, 03:28 PM
IMHO "legit" midwifery goes back much further than legit medicine. For most of the last 300 years you would be much better of with a midwife than a doctor.


Generally, in most of the history of midwifery, if you had to call in a doctor there was trouble... and often the doctor didn't solve that trouble either...


Even now doctors don't recieve the same level of training for births that a midwife does. Many doctors never deliver a baby.

dolores haze
11-28-2011, 07:02 PM
My own birth experiences were very much modern. I was induced both times for medical reasons. The first with a wonderful, beautiful epidural; the second without. Pitocin-induced contractions without an epidural were terrible. It felt like my uterus was going to rupture. I was begging the doctor not to keep turning it up. He refused me pain meds, too. Bastard.

A couple of tidbits you might find more helpful: There's an old wives tale about keeping a knife under the birthing bed to "cut the pain." I once chatted with a historian who specialized in women's history. She insisted the knife was not there to "cut the pain." It was there in case episiotomy or Cesarean delivery was required, and they kept the knife under the bed to spare the laboring woman from having to see it. That was her theory, anyway. Makes sense. Both these procedures have been used for an awful long time, that much is obvious. From way before the medicalization and masculinization of pregnancy and delivery services.

You might find a recent book helpful. The Sekhmet Bed by Lavender Ironside (an AWer's pen name) is set in Ancient Egypt and contains an awful lot of detail about pregnancy and childbirth in Ancient Egypt. It's fiction, but the scenes are wonderfully written and detailed. The author also lists her sources.

SuzanneSeese
11-28-2011, 08:16 PM
There is a movie my husband references every time we women sit around discussing our childbirth horror stories.

Man in the Wilderness (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067388/)

The short synopsis: the man in the wilderness in the 1800's, wounded and left alone is hidden in the brush and see's Indians on horseback coming his way. He remains still but they stop. The Indian woman gets off the back of the horse and walks his way out of sight of the others. This hidden man watches as she squats down, grabs a tree truck and starts grimacing. She doesn't make a sound and pops out a baby. Wraps the baby in a blanket and hoists herself back up on the horse and away they went.

Ouch! :eek:

I made sure I squeezed my husband fingers together with each and every contraction for all three of our boys. Years later though, he calls me a sissy because I wasn't as tough as the Indian woman.

MeretSeger
11-28-2011, 08:46 PM
Basically, whatever you need to happen in your story, can happen. There is a continuum of experience, and even each labor and birth is different.

If you want some real fun, try to have them do a version for a breech.

shaldna
11-29-2011, 02:41 PM
I made sure I squeezed my husband fingers together with each and every contraction for all three of our boys. Years later though, he calls me a sissy because I wasn't as tough as the Indian woman.

I know one woman who was back riding her horses hunting the day after giving birth.

KatieJ
11-30-2011, 09:10 PM
I don't know if you need any more information, but I've had six, only the first one was medicated (epidural).

One thing not mentioned here (at least I didn't see it) was the placenta (afterbirth). In my experience that more children you have had the more impactful having the afterbirth is. I.e. the first couple of births, I barely felt the afterbirth coming out. Over the six births though, it took more contractions to expel the afterbirth, to the point where by baby #6 it took more contractions to expel the afterbirth than the baby, and it actually was quite uncomfortable.

Also, transition is the worst phase of birth, shaking, quivering, vomiting and saying "Screw this, I am not having this baby, forget it!" a lot. Otherwise, it's just work. Luckily transition is pretty quickly over.

And, finally, unmedicated babies are a heck of a lot more alert than medicated ones, they are a lot like movies you see of baby kangaroos, "crawling" as they squirm around and root for the breast. There is a blissful period of about an hour or two where they are very alert and you can really bond with them (their wise little old soul eyes stare into you) before they become sleepy.

Hope this perspective helps.

Perks
11-30-2011, 09:16 PM
I know one woman who was back riding her horses hunting the day after giving birth.That's just flat out crazy. Bless her heart.

Belle_91
11-30-2011, 09:17 PM
I didnt read anyone else's posts, so I don't know if anyone has mentioned this. If I were you I would look up some of the ancient Venus figures. We learned in our anthropology class that women postioned themselves differently when giving birth.

The way we give birth now, lying on our backs only slightly propped up, actually creates a disadvantage. Women are in this postion because it helps the doctor/midwife. I have also heard of women in Biblical times standing on two blocks to deliver. They pull on some sort of rope as they push I think. From the docuementary I watched--which focused on the Natvity Story--they believe this is how Jesus was born.

You might be able to catch the Nativity Story Doc. that I watched now that it's the holiday season. I think it was either on the history channel or NBC. Also, the movie the Nativity Story has a good scene when Mary is giving birth (in the movie she is squatting) and then I think when Elizabeth gives birth she is standing on the two blocks of wood.

Before that, I think--don't qoute me on this--but women used to stand or were in some kneeling postion. I found it all to be very interesting.

buz
11-30-2011, 09:56 PM
Again, many thanks to everyone. You've been a tremendous help and I enjoyed reading your stories. I've written a draft of the birthing scene now but a) I can always go back and change it and b) I imagine the subject of writing childbirth can come up in more cases than mine, so it's not like you have to stop posting your input if you've got more. :)


I know one woman who was back riding her horses hunting the day after giving birth.

This doesn't surprise me at all. I've worked in the horse industry and those people are nuts. People ride with broken bones, organ infections, after traumatic emotional events, and when there's two feet of snow outside. I love 'em but they're crazy.


Basically, whatever you need to happen in your story, can happen. There is a continuum of experience, and even each labor and birth is different.

Absolutely. 'Specially since the woman giving birth is Isis...had Horus tear her up some on the way out. Just because I can.

I'm mean.

But I did want some elements of reality and I had no idea where to start, really, beyond what you typically see in movies. This thread was a big help.


The Sekhmet Bed by Lavender Ironside (an AWer's pen name) is set in Ancient Egypt and contains an awful lot of detail about pregnancy and childbirth in Ancient Egypt. It's fiction, but the scenes are wonderfully written and detailed. The author also lists her sources.

I'm always looking for more Egypto-fiction. ;) Thank you!


The convolvulus vine was used to stimulate contractions and stop bleeding, so you might find that useful for your story if they know any plant-lore.

So I was RIGHT about the convulsing vulva! That's so cool.

jaksen
12-03-2011, 06:21 PM
Had I tried to deliver my first child without doctors, nurses and a fully-staffed OR, I would have died.

So in your past, I would have been one of those who didn't make it. Neither would my child.

trickywoo
12-05-2011, 02:22 AM
I've given birth without meds three times. A few other things that might help. Like someone else described the first stages of labor are regular, rhythmic peaks of cramping/pain that get closer together and more intense. Then the transition phase is the very painful I-don't-think-I-can-do-this.

I think for many women it's less the screaming you see on TV and more the very low guttural moans. Also, I threw up during the most intense contractions and the nurse told me that is quite common.

The pushing out phase burns so it's a different kind of pain. Also the delivery of the afterbirth/placenta is another big push.

There are post-delivery cramps as the uterus begins to shrink. Breastfeeding increases these cramps - they probably last about 24 hrs or so and they were more intense with each subsequent birth. They often felt to me like the early stages of labor.

There is a flood of bonding hormones after birth, which is the euphoria everyone talks about, so I think you could have a character deliver the baby herself, clean it off, feed it, and then be restful at home. Did you ever read THE GOOD EARTH? The giving birth scenes in there seem so primal and intriguing. The woman does it all by herself. THE RED TENT also had some interesting scenes.

Also, most mother's milk doesn't come in fully right away. Instead, colostrum comes in for the first few days - a very nutrient dense "milk" that satisfies the baby until the real milk comes in 3-4 days after birth. So depending on how literal you want to be with what they are going to feed the baby, how that plays out, you may want to look into that as well.

For the first baby, the postpartum recovery is longer - longer to be able to sit comfortably, for the bleeding to stop, etc. But then with each baby it's so much easier. So depending on how many babies your character has had, she may be up and at it quite quickly. Good luck!