I was reading an article which encouraged women to try alternate methods like breathing and movement instead of pushing to decrease the rate of perennial tears. I was caught off guard by the notion because after my last birth, I was convinced pushing occurred so naturally and spontaneously that it couldn’t be provoked or stopped.
But, in my medicated births, I never experienced the “urge to push.” I relaxed in bed until the doctor decided it was time. Then, they watched my contractions on the monitor and instructed me when to push. All of my babies were out within 20 minutes of pushing and I experienced tearing twice, once with an epidural and once without an epidural, but each time it had to do with the size and position of the baby, not the pushing itself.
That’s not to say that there isn’t merit to what these midwives are suggesting. One of the best tips I received from a friend was to push and deliver the head, then pause and allow gravity to gracefully deliver the shoulders. The shoulders are the widest part of the baby, so it makes sense that pushing that part out with great force could result in more tearing. I practiced that, even through my “coached” pushing, and refrained from forcefully pushing the shoulders. Instead, a brief pause allowed momentum and gravity to assist in the delivery.
Another great tip I’ve received is to focus the strength of your pushing to the same muscles you use to do kegel exercise. When it is time to push, it’s easy to inadvertently tense up all sorts of areas, from the arms, to the face. But at the moment of delivery, focus your energy on the vaginal muscles, as they are moving the baby out into the world.
In my last birth, I became really nervous about pushing. I was afraid that the baby’s shoulder would get stuck. I told my midwife I was afraid to push, thinking that she’d give me some tips on how to move my body and what to do. Instead, she said, “let’s pray!” In that brief moment, we shifted fear to faith.
When the urge to push came, it overtook my whole body (in a good way), and I pushed with strength I didn’t know I had. It was the most natural, supernatural, experience. It was natural because the incredible rush of hormones made it feel like something women were intricately designed to do, and it was supernatural as I felt my spirit deeply rely on God to birth the baby. In many ways, it felt like an out of body experience, though I was present and active, my spirit was experiencing something divine. After the baby was born, it took me a few minutes to come back to reality. My first thoughts were, “What just happened? Did I just have a baby? The best part was, nothing hurt. Even though I tore during that delivery, I felt a tear, but no pain, complementary of the rush of adrenaline that accompanies the fetal ejection response.
And remember that fear that I mentioned? Well, my daughter actually was tangled in her umbilical cord, so much so that she wasn’t able to get into the proper birth position. One of her shoulders remained “untucked,” which caused nerve damage in her arm. Because of her shoulder remaining untucked, she could have easily gotten stuck. Yet, changing my fear to faith opened up the door for God to move in and protect both of us, a concept we dive into much more in Re:Birth. (Plus, God healed her arm and shoulder miraculously when she was four months old, but that’s another testimony :) !)
What are some of your tips on pushing?
Is a wife, mother of four, author of Re:Birth, and lover of afternoon naps.