COME ON, PUSH IT! What’s Your Idea of Pushing?

28 Mar

Insert Salt and Peppa (is that how you spell it?) singing that infamous 90s pop song “Push It”…Ahh push it, come on, push it…

Pushing. Stage Two of labor. Pushing, pushing, pushing.

What’s your image of pushing…the first thing that comes to mind?

I know what mine was, some seven years ago… Mama on her back, spread eagle, legs jammed into her chest, crotch pointed toward the sky, all while she struggles to do the impossible: a sit-up. Her breath is held, eyes are typically scrunched closed, face is in a painful grimace and nurses, doctors, and family members shout at her to “PUSH” like a cheerleader at a pep rally. “P-U-S-H! Push! Push!”

You see it all the time on TV, be it sitcom or “reality” cable birthing show. You hear about it from women who’ve given birth. Directed pushing. Cheerleader pushing. Hold-your-breath-while-we-count-to-ten-pushing. It seems the way to go. But does anyone realize that there is a different way to push? A way that when left to her own devices to push, is NOT the aforementioned scenario.

In fact, about 95% of women, when given the freedom to push however they like, do NOT end up on their back (or holding their breath or following someone else’s instructions on how to push). Rather, they are squatting. They are on hands and knees. They are lunging. In short, they are in any position but supine…that is, if they are not medicated (I only say this because if you have a medicated birth, chances are good that you are too numb to do anything but push on your back being as you lack feeling from the waist down…not to mention the likelihood of being catheterized as well as tethered to a blood pressure cuff, IV, and fetal heart monitor…in short…you ain’t going nowhere).

Fast forward about seven years and my experiences with pushing are anything but what my preconceived, pre-pregnancy notions of pushing were.

In the two labors I’ve had, the pushing phase was a combined five hours. Of that five hours, two pushing contractions were on my back.

Two out of a bazillion.

And I recall them vividly, carnally, and oof, painfully.

All the rest were upright. Five hours of them.

Five hours of standing. Squatting. Lunging. Crawling. Walking. Leaning. Dancing. In short, anything but on my back.

Not that I didn’t try pushing on my back, just for shits and giggles, I suppose. But after one on my back with baby number one, I said, NO WAY. That’s enough for me.

Then with baby number two, something told me to try one push on my back. Some instinct in the far reaches of my mind. Boy do I remember that contraction. In short, by laying back for a contraction, my son regressed in my pelvis and on the next contraction was able to get past my tailbone. With the contraction after that, he crowned.

While the birth of baby number three ebbs closer and closer, pushing on my back is not on the agenda (unless that instinct from my second birth kicks in and directs me to).

Often times, when I talk about my homebirthing ways, I am surprised to learn how surprised others are that I pushed while squatting. More confusing than the reason for choosing homebirth to them is the fact that I was not supine while giving birth.

Unintentionally, the conversation takes on a “What do you mean, you pushed upright?” turn. And I explain.

I have seen this wave of confusion turn to intrigue then to “Well, gosh, I guess that does make sense” after I detail the logic.

A great, informative, logical, and brief paper on pushing can be found here, at Lamaze’s website. It emphasizes the advantages of pushing in any position but supine and I wholeheartedly concur.

But how does one push upright, despite all the advantages, when entering a system that is, as a rule, unsupportive of it? How does one stand to deliver?

Good question.

My knee jerk reaction…stay home to give birth.

But being that only 1% of American women do that, reality tells me that’s not the answer (but of course, I think it should be, but that’s just me, disclaimer).

My other knee jerk reaction is to give birth unmedicated. That way, you will feel your way through the pushing phase and follow your body’s cues which will likely get you upright.

So you have to plan. Not hope, but plan, to birth unmedicated.

You have to plan it in your mind. Plan it with your partner. And plan it with your chosen care provider. (If your chosen care provider is unsupportive, consider it a red flag and find another one. Next! One more informative link from Lamaze may just convince you.)

If stats and science and studies don’t convince you about pushing while upright, especially if you are first time mama (which I completely empathize with and remember) I offer you this: your body will know what to do. Even more so, if you can keep all your bodily sensations about you, avoid the numbing effects of drugs, and have freedom to move, your body will guide you. (And don’t forget that invaluable support team!)

Just like my body guided me out of that one supine push with my first labor and guided me into one supine push with my second, yours too will do what it needs to do to birth your baby.  

Now sing with me…ahh push it, come on push it! Pick up on this!

11 Responses to “COME ON, PUSH IT! What’s Your Idea of Pushing?”

  1. Kelly 28 March 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    ah, push it, push it real good…
    another great blog.
    seems like soooo long since we’ve done something fun. Sorry I missed your sushi shower. Can’t wait to hear all about it! See you on the 7th. Hope the Easter bunny brings you sushi!

  2. Lula 29 March 2010 at 9:08 am #

    Baby #1: medicated, on my back, monitors galore, two nurses; each holding back a leg, husband pushing my back forward (the wonderful sit up you mention!), nurses cheering, ‘You can do it! PUSH!PUSH!’…pushed for 50 minutes. Baby #2: UNmedicated, no monitors, no cheerleaders, on all fours in a birthing tub..pushed for FOUR minutes. My vote is unmedicted and ANY position other than flat on your back! Like you say, if you are medicated you have to be on your back but it is the most absolute worse position to be in to give birth, especially if you want to avoid interventions. Ugh…and not to mention the most awful intervention that you are most likely to get while on your back..The Episiotomy! Get on all fours mamas to be! Squat!Do anything BUT what got you in this place to begin with! :)

    • Kiki 29 March 2010 at 10:32 am #

      Nothing like first-hand experience to drive a point home.

      And YES on the crotch cut…that supine position is like a giant red target, screaming “Cut Here!”…bullseye. Episiotomies tend not to happen when mom is off her back. And really, who ever agrees to that “procedure?” Ahh, that’s another Oprah…

      Thanks for replying!

  3. starphoenix 4 April 2010 at 12:08 am #

    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    Hehe, laying on your back flat on bed is the most convenient position to your care givers/doctors, not the best for a laboring mom.
    I had c-section 10 years ago. This time, I don’t want any medication or surgery. I know I can bring my baby to this world naturally and peacefully. But hospital isn’t the best place for me because my body is super sensitive with the environment. I have to stay at home as long as I can. Pushing part? I don’t think the “purple push” is the only right way to do so. I’m studying hpynobabies. Wish it will bring me the light to a more pleasant labor experience.

    • Kiki 7 April 2010 at 9:36 am #

      The purple push…great description! Sad but true, as well!

      You can do it! Stay true to yourself, your instinct, your wants and needs.

      And you’re right…it’s the most convenient position for the care provider, not the mama.

  4. Trisha Lawrie 5 April 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    I was shocked and amazed at the intensity of unmedicated pushing. It was so different than pushing with an epidural.

    When I was pushing, I would have dared anyone to count! I think I would have gotten violent. My body knew just what to do, and I couldn’t have stopped that natural urge if I’d tried. The key is to get out of your own way and let your body do it’s thing!

    • Kiki 7 April 2010 at 9:34 am #

      well said…get outta your own way and let your body do its thing!

      I too was shocked at the intensity I felt when pushing. It was so overwhelming, so unstoppable, so carnal. There was no way I was going to be able to NOT push or do directed pushing (which, of course, was not a concern anyway in a homebirth). I think of women doing as their told during the pushing phase and cringe. To me, it’s like being told when and how to have a bowel movement. That’s the only way I can describe it!

  5. Elo 12 April 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your experience. I wanted so badly to give birth at home, but was transferred and ended up with a section at the hospital, probably because of pitocin + forced pushing… Next time around, I really hope I can stay home and be allowed to do what my body tells me to…


  1. Science & Sensibility » The Fifth Healthy Birth Blog Carnival: Push it real good! - 11 April 2010

    [...] lying flat. Kiki at The Birth Junkie shows that it is the freedom to experiment with positions in second stage – not a certain pos…. In her first birth, she knew instinctively to stay off her back, a knowledge that was confirmed [...]

  2. 2010 in review « BIRTH JUNKIE - 2 January 2011

    [...] COME ON, PUSH IT! What’s Your Idea of Pushing? March 201010 comments Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)#1 Page and Top 3 Posts In 2009 [...]

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