Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sarah's Births - "Will I always Scream and Find the Pain Unbearable?"

Since the last post, I have received a number of emails from women asking all sorts of questions... telling sad birth stories, asking if things could have been different for them.

I decided that rather than try to respond to each person individually, I would try to respond to some of these emails on my blog as I have been given permission.

So, here is the first email I will respond to.
First, though, while I am composing a reply, I thought I'd put it out there for the rest of you to comment on. Please do suggest anything that you think might be helpful for this mother. I look forward to hearing your ideas and even just your stories, validating what she has experienced. It is the worst feeling to feel like you are the only person in the world with a particular problem or experience.
I know from my years of experience as a doula that "Sarah" is not alone and there are many women who are like her.
If you would like to reply to her off-list, feel free to email me at: betterbirth4you {at} gmail {dot} com and I will gladly forward your messages to her as well.

Thank you!

Hi Mary,
I am wondering if there is a way I could have a less painful birth experience. I am pretty certain that we are pregnant right now with our fourth baby. Our three previous births have all been with midwives (but not at home)who never encouraged "purple pushing", but my births are horribly painful toward the end.

I have a very high tolerance for pain, but I still end up screaming every time. Our first birth was by far the worst. It was so traumatic for me that I literally cried for almost a year any time I actually thought about what I had been through. Just remembering the pain brought back tears. I screamed with every contraction for five or six hours before our little girl was born.

Then I had trouble with bleeding afterward, as I have with every one of our births. My uterus does not want to contract back into shape after the baby is out, so I lie there in a happy state of shock, bleeding away. It is always scary to everyone but me. I turn pale, and hardly feel a thing. I am totally happy to have a little baby in my arms and to be out of pain, but everyone else sees the blood and my paling face and gets worried. That's after the birth...

Before the baby is born, this is what it is like. My early contractions are usually tolerable until I get to about four centimeters. I wince and ache, but I can pace and breathe through them. Then at that point, my body usually kicks in high gear and I dilate the rest of the way very quickly. Once my body decides to get serious I can go from four to ten centimeters in half an hour. This period is so intensely painful that I choose to start pushing as soon as I am fully dilated because I can't stand the pain. The pain is especially intense in my lower back, so I usually birth in a hands and knees position while my husband pushes HARD on my lower back with his fist/knuckles, which helps a little, and which I really appreciate. I push the baby out as fast as I can because I am screaming and exhausted and I can't stand the thought of slowing down and allowing the pain to linger a moment longer than it has to.

I always wondered if I was wierd. I know that nurses don't seem to be used to the screaming. I never hear screaming when I know the woman down the hall is giving birth, too. It's a little embarassing for me. I am definitely not a dramatic type of person who would choose to put on a show like this. And I am definitely not just screaming because I think it's therapeutic or something. It just really is THAT bad. I can't stop it or help it.

When I have spoken about this, other women tend to doubt that it could have been this way for me. It seems like outright screaming is unusual. I never knew that it was until I started reading other people's birth stories. No screaming. I have even heard people say that they experienced almost no pain at the very end, that all their pain came during dilation, whereas my pain just kept going until the baby was born.

My births are done without pain medication. They never give me pitocin until after the baby is born, to deal with the bleeding problem.

Am I doing something wrong? Is there a way I could do this differently? Have you ever worked with someone like me? Do you have any thoughts on this?
Any ideas or words of wisdom you could share with me would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for taking the time to read this.




bombe cerise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Noah said...

Do you have the option of laboring/birthing in the water. My contractions were way less intense in the water then when I was out. Also, just keeping perspective. For me when it got incredibly painful (transition) I just focused on the fact that the baby was almost here and keeping that in mind really helped me ignore the pain and focus on the goal. My doula was also really helpful in keeping me focused and suggesting techniques my husband could use (for me it was the hip squeeze) to alleviate the pain.

bombe cerise said...

I am a home birth midwife so my clients are all unmedicated, and yes they are for the most part loud and moan with every contraction and scream and yell with each push as they are not self conscious about it in their own house. Birth is loud, and I always get a chuckle when I read about the silent births of Scientology. That is just not happening for the vast majority of normal unmedicated mamas that I know!

I will say though that there is some discordance with how loud women think they are and how loud they really are- my screechers have no idea they made that much noise, and my quite ladies think the neighbors heard everything. It is very individual the perception of the event.

And as far as pain, is suppose to be that freakin' hard to have a baby to some degree. I think we soft sell how painful labor really is and down play the awesome hormone rush that happens afterwards to make you think that horrendous pain was the greatest thing you ever accomplished, and how it helps you connect with your baby. we are on the whole not explaining the science and function of mind blowing pain during labor, it's physiological, psychological and spiritual importance, and how to cope with it to mothers.

However, with what I am hearing about her back pain I would suggest getting some chiropractic work done by a chiro who is experienced with pregnancy and knows how to do pelvic adjustments, not just Webster's, to help the pelvis become more dynamic and able to flex as it should as the baby descends. I think she is have some intense sacral pain that can be relived.

As the vast majority of births in a clinical setting are medicated it is the staff who are not use to seeing how incredibly loud a laboring mother is and maybe embarrassed by the very sexual sounds of labor or the incredible loudness of it. However it is very disconcerting to me to see a woman in labor chatting away and totally disconnected from her labor. It's rather like having a tea party where every one shows up naked, and no one comments!

I think some Chiropractic and some reassurance that she is normal and average and not odd in her decibels is what's called for.

Oh, other than a waterbirth ;)

Sheridan said...


Hugs to you. I think it is so great that you have had so many unmedicated births and plan on this one being unmedicated as well, despite the pain.

I wanted to share an idea you maybe haven't thought of before. Hypnobabies. It is a hypnosis for childbirth program, which has medical level deep hypnosis in it. The same type that dentists use. I just saw on the Discovery Channel a dentist who drilled someones tooth while he was under hypnosis with no drugs. Same idea.

I used it with my last baby and had a comfortable birth. I have gathered over 150 positive birth stories from other moms who have used it at

Most moms have never heard of this, so I wanted to share the idea!

Good luck to you!

Anonymous said...

I used Hypnobabies!! Twice actually!

if you like, you can go here and see his birth video that I put together. I'll admit that I felt discomfort the last two hours but totally bearable.

Holly said...

For low back pain have you ever tried subcutaneous sterile water papule injections? It is supposed to be very effective for relieving back pain in labor (particularly due to OP babies) and can be repeated as often as necessary. There have been a number of studies published on this and I am not sure why it does not seem to be widely used in the US (probably because no expensive drugs are involved!) It would be something to try anyway since it certainly can't hurt anything! I also can highly recommend the hypnosis techniques and laboring/birthing in water from personal experience. Good luck!

vika said...

My son, my first child, was born just over a month ago. We delivered at home so no medications of course. He was over two weeks postdates so my midwife broke my water to get things started. (We had already tried everything else imaginable.) Anyway my labor came on quick and so intense. I had contractions every 1-2 minutes right from the start and so painful. I was screaming with every contraction; like you I couldn't help it! I tried the birth tub as well as all kinds of positions with no relief of the pain. It was relieved when our beautiful son came out.
So, I'm not an expert by any means but my experience too was that there was a lot of pain and that I was loud. Per my midwife, this was not unusual.

mamasara said...

There have been many helpful comments on this post already for suggestions such as using the water, Hypnobabies and chiropractic. I would highly suggest a doula to assist you through your next labor. Be honest with her about your other experiences so that she knows you and can make suggestions to help. I would also suggest using a TENS unit. I carry one in my doula bag for clients with low back pain. It is a little hand held unit that emits a tiny amount of electrical stimulation to your lower back through sticky pads placed around the sacrum area. It really helps with the pain, especially if put in place before the pain is intense like in early labor for you. You can buy them on the internet, too. Best of luck to you for having a more calm birth.

Ruth Shepard Trode said...

There have been some great suggesstions so far, but I want to address the fear that Sarah is experiencing. having some body/mind therapy can help to address and relieve the trauma of intense births (dialting quickly).

I dilate quickly, myself, and experience intense birth sensations that I would define as "painful." Sarah is very normal by vocalizing during the most intense part of her labor.

Cranial-sacral work can help release the fear from past births and help set you on the path of healing for the next birth. This type of therapy can be so useful that it can very likely address the issue of pain in the back and pelvis by eliminating the tension (held by fear) in the pelvis.

Also, homeopathic Aconite is a fantastic remedy that can be taken during labor for acute experiences of fear. Homeopathy is safe, effective and can be self administered.

Low tones are helpful, too. Keeping your vocalizations low will vibrate the uterus and mediate pain sensation. I feel like I have to be "louder" than my contractions and will often raise my vocalization volume as the contraction sensation intensifies.

For postpartum, homeopathic Arnica is a necessity, in my opinion. In the 3 of my 4 births where I took Arnica my lochia (bleeding after birth) was reduced to only 2 weeks. It left my uterus firm and strong after birthing and promotes good pelvic floor healing, too.

Last, I want to say that your babies are very lucky to have you as their mother, Sarah. It is such a gift to give an unmedicated start to your children. you will reap the rewards for years to come. Take heart that what you are experiencing is completly normal and that it is okay to be afraid. Address the fear and you will have the birth you are dreaming of--maybe not pain-free, but certainly fear-free.

katsy said...

I can somewhat relate to what Sarah wrote. My second birth was a lot harder than my first. While there were many differences between the two (higher weight gain and lack of support are tops on the list), I also had SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction). This made my 3rd-trimester discomfort at least twice as bad as my first pregnancy, and it started earlier too. Anyway, the ctx were worse w/my 2nd baby, even though my water didn't break until just at the end. I think if I had gotten the SPD under control, it wouldn't have been that bad.

webirth said...

Hi Sarah ~

If I might share a thought on what leapt out at me from your story. You are an amazing birther and that you are looking beyond the fear to the understanding is perhaps louder to me than the screams. Take pride in your births.

Secondly, I want to point out that you are very aware of the reactions of others around you and you notice the looks of fear on their faces. You are at a very vulnerable moment, I can't emphasized that enough, when you see their faces. Your baby is just born. Your body is processing third stage...and primally this is the point where if you were in the woods and there was something to be afraid of you might want to pick up your baby and run. Yet, you can't because here you are with blood loss. You're not truly in danger for you are surrounded by people who don't intend you any harm and yet they have these fearfull looks on their faces.

I don't wonder that this registers deeply in your mind and perhaps with each birth you might be working to eliminate that conflict: somewhat unable to preserve oneself.

I don't really think that screaming is uncommon. I do think that perhaps some of us don't want to admit that we were frightened by our own primal scream. I thank you for sharing your experience and hope other women will read it and know that it is okay to scream and it's okay to think something is wrong. Talking puts the thought out there for others to mull over and take what they need from it. Even if they don't respond for now you know you are not wholly unusual. Your births are not strange.

Your births are yours. They belong to you. They are you. Do all that you can to support that part of you ~ which you are doing by asking for 'tips' from others. Try them all. You never know what will help. More importantly have the people you lean on the most take the time to work on their perceptions of your births too that they might come to the place where the fear doesn't overwhelm your birth environment.

JMK said...

My first baby was like that...for three hours I thought I had contraction on top of contraction and I couldn't handle the pain. I started in the water but couldn't get comfortable ~ anywhere actually! My midwife tried to encourage me to use low tones in voicing my pain but I was too distracted to pay attention. With my second, I also labored in the water and remembered to focus on totally relaxing my body (I let the water hold me up and actually trusted my husband to help me keep my head above water! And when I felt the need to voice I kept it the most forefront in my mind to keep the voice low. Many people think that this helps to actually open things up. Some people even say it is good to growl! All I know is that my second birth was SO much better than my first one. I only had a few minutes that I thought I couldn't handle the pain and even then I reminded myself to keep the voice in low tones ... I mean by that, like you would say a cow moos not a bird sings. I was very surprised the pain didn't seem half as bad that way.