Pushing Upright and Spontaneously: A’s Birth Video

Pushing Upright and Spontaneously: A’s Birth Video


Lamaze International’s fifth Healthy Birth Practice Paper is all about pushing: pushing in an upright position, pushing according to your body’s urges, pushing in a way that both maximizes a woman’s comfort and safety and encourages the rotation and descent of her baby.

It’s all about pushing in ways that research shows are healthy for moms and babies!

Nevertheless, despite the evidence supporting the “spontaneous pushing” (or physiologic pushing) that Lamaze and other birth advocates and researchers recommend, it’s not often that we actually see women pushing spontaneously.

As I’ve reflected upon my VBAC, however, I’ve realized that I did follow the healthy pushing practices set out by Lamaze International.  And this was not because I was a “better” pusher or a “better” birther than anyone else. And it wasn’t just because I knew that spontaneous pushing was healthy.

It was also because I had a support team who knew that spontaneous/physiologic pushing was healthy.

We knew that pushing in upright positions helps to facilitate a baby’s rotation and descent into the birth canal.

We knew that I needed to find the pushing position that worked best for me.

We knew that I needed time to rest in between pushes and in between contractions.

We knew that following my urge to push would decrease my likelihood of perineal and pelvic floor damage.

We knew that pushing in a calm and unrushed environment–and not pushing to a count of ten–would help to maximize my own and my baby’s oxygenation.

And they knew when to step back and allow me to do my work, and they knew when to step in and encourage me to change positions, to stay hydrated, or even to trust the process of birth itself.

This is what it looked–and sounded–like.

(It should be noted that I am publishing these videos with some hesitation–not because I am embarrassed about publicly displaying my “birthing behavior” but because I am offering what was perhaps the most vulnerable moment of my adult life up for public consumption.  Exposing that vulnerability is a bit daunting.  Nonetheless, I love these videos, and I love thinking about what they could help to share with other women and birth professionals.

And one more thing: these videos are not still images from my labor.  They are actual videos of the birth.  I grunt, I groan, I vocalize, and sometimes I even shriek. Birth is hard work.  But I want everyone to know–and especially those women who haven’t yet given birth–that these guttural, strange sounds were not scary to me.  Birthing was intense, and even painful, yes.  But the sounds were what helped me to cope with that intensity, with that pain.  So don’t be frightened when you hear me moaning like a beast!  I was just being a warrior!)

Transitioning from “grunty contractions” to feeling the overwhelming urge to push.

(This one includes the famous “10 cm picture!”)


(Adjust your volume accordingly.)

Birthing my baby.

(Again, adjust your volume accordingly.)

All apologies for the poor lighting in these videos.  I was willing to sacrifice a well-lit video for a dimly-lit place to birth, though!

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  1. Laurelin

    I’d love to watch and learn from the videos, but when I click them, I get a “This is a private video” warning from YouTube. Can you help?
    .-= Laurelin´s last blog ..Philosophy in Warm Weather =-.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      Laurelin, I think that they should work now!

      • Laurelin

        Yep, the videos are all good now. Beautiful birth, Kristen! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. The more natural, normal births women are able to witness in this way, the better chance we have of reshaping our country’s ideas of what birth can/should be! Bravo!

  2. jill

    I am at work, and so can’t watch right now, but I can not wait to see! I think it is so wonderful that you are sharing this with others to show a normal, natural birthing experience, plus a VBAC! I wish my first homebirth was video’ed because I encounter so many friends that are under the impression that something like this is not possible and that pregnancy must be micro-managed and the mother must put her life in someone else’s hands… it’s so great you show women differently!
    I also had a support system that believed in spontaneous pushing. It was good to feel like I controlled my body, breath, and pushes…

  3. Bethany

    These are beautiful videos. How kind of you to share!

    I’ll be honest, I’ve been having kind of a low day. I have a “risk consult” with my midwife’s supervising OB tomorrow, and from comments she’s made, I’m worried it will be a c-section high pressure sales meeting. I was beginning to feel like it’s impossible to have a VBAC, and your videos totally cheered me up. It is possible!

  4. Tiffany

    I grinned like an idiot at your joy upon meeting your baby. How beautifully powerful. Thank you for sharing yourself this way.
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..April is Cesarean Awareness Month =-.

  5. Molly

    How beautiful. And how refreshing to see a birth video that’s so quiet and peaceful, just you making your birthy sounds and working. Thanks for sharing; I can understand why that would feel weird, but I’m glad you posted!

  6. Rebecca S
    Rebecca S04-08-2010

    Thank you for sharing! These videos are amazing.

  7. TheFeministBreeder

    Tears, Tears, and more Tears. I’m so totally in love with the staff around you that just let you sit there and have that baby. Unbelievable. (although I didn’t like the woman telling you to push without noise — I screamed like a BANSHEE during my pushing and ain’t nobody coulda stopped me!)

    I love you, woman. Hear you RAWR!!

    • Nicole

      Awesome videos, thank you for posting! I do have to say that the woman telling you to push without sound ticked me off too. My midwife told me when I was preggo that the noise helps get the baby out! Amen to that!!! When baby #2 is born, that’s what I’m going to tell my son so he’s not afraid when his sibling is born (homebirth, so he’ll be there). great job, and congratulations!!!

  8. Chanda

    Watching such an amazing birth makes me so sad that I never experienced pushing a baby out. I attempted a natural birth and ended up with a c-section. I wanted to attempt a VBAC with my second, but went ahead with a scheduled c-section instead. My doc didn’t think I could do it. Small hips and big, big-headed babies.

    You were absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for sharing! I was crying the entire time!
    .-= Chanda´s last blog ..FuzziBunz Perfect Size Pocket Diaper – A review and giveaway! =-.

  9. Valerie

    What a great post! I just found your blog, and am thrilled because I am a doula (in-training) and PhD student, too! I didn’t know there was anyone else crazy enough to try to do both! I’m getting my PhD in English.

    Love your blog and adding it to my site.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      Valerie, I always love “meeting” other “academic doulas!” Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I’ll be sure to check out your blog!

  10. Eliza

    Wow, love it thank you for sharing. Add me to the list of folks whose eyes were all teary from watching you meet your baby.
    .-= Eliza´s last blog ..First bike ride =-.

  11. Science & Sensibility » The Fifth Healthy Birth Blog Carnival: Push it real good!
    Science & Sensibility » The Fifth Healthy Birth Blog Carnival: Push it real good!04-11-2010

    […] at Birthing Beautiful Ideas posted three remarkable videos that show how a pushing urge develops, grows into strong bearing down efforts, and culminates in […]

  12. Ashley

    Thank you for sharing–like everyone else has agreed, these videos are beautiful. The moments where you meet your baby made me burst out into tears. I can’t wait to do this again–and to be the first one to hold my baby this time, not the last. Thank you!

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      Thanks to you–and to everyone–who has left such wonderfully supportive comments on this post. It really means a lot to me and takes away any and all reservations I had about posting these videos.

  13. Heather

    Also brought tears to my eyes. I could feel your joy!

  14. Rachel

    I am bawling my eyes out. What beautiful videos. I want to share these with my doula clients, because this is so beautifully normal. Thank you for posting!!
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..April menu =-.

  15. Rachael

    Thank you for sharing those videos with us despite any trepidation.

    I cried like a fool at the last one. From the beginning, the sounds you were making were not scary to me but beautifully primal.

    I love that they let you be where you were even though it was obviously not the easiest/most convenient place for the doctor. They let you be where you wanted to be, which is pretty awesome.

    I have 24 days until my 2nd baby is due, and am giving birth naturally this time in a birth center. Videos like yours inspire me.

  16. Kinsey

    cry every time i see these videos. you’re an incredible mother, woman, and doula, and i am so proud to be your sister. the strength you demonstrated throughout your pregnancy and birth is incredible. so excited that someday i’ll get to have you by my side when matt and i start having little ones of our own.

  17. Push! Push! Push! Part I « Then Comes a Baby
    Push! Push! Push! Part I « Then Comes a Baby04-16-2010

    […] 16, 2010 A woman shares her stages of second stage – during her VBAC. These videos are dark, but you can certainly hear what she is […]

  18. Arabella Hancock
    Arabella Hancock04-19-2010

    Wonderful, what a great video. I am so pleased and thankful that you chose to share it. Great for me to see an example of “waiting” for the urge to push. I experienced an immediate need from transition to pushing, so this was so interesting! Brought tears to my eyes. Congratulations.

  19. Christie B
    Christie B04-26-2010

    What beautiful videos! Thank you so much for sharing.

  20. Tanashia

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Tanashia´s last blog ..This Black Woman Breastfeeds! =-.

  21. Weekly Reads: Challenge Your Perception of Birth — Giving Birth with Confidence
    Weekly Reads: Challenge Your Perception of Birth — Giving Birth with Confidence05-16-2010

    […] Following the urge to push – video @ Birthing Beautiful Ideas […]

  22. Michelle

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I cry every time I see a birth, whether its in person or in video. Each time reaffirms why I am about to become a student midwife. Women’s bodies are AMAZING, and I can’t wait to help support women through this transformative process for a living. Talk about a dream job :)

  23. Angela

    I was writing on my own blog today about coached vs. spontaneous pushing and in doing some research, came across your post. WONDERFUL! I was absolutely thrilled to view your videos of normal spontaneous pushing and birth, and shared a link to this post on my own blog. These images are rare, but so important. Thank you so much for sharing.

  24. Bonnie

    When I hear that oh-so-familiar birthing roar, I think “Do I really want to do that again?” And then I hear the womanly power in your voice and hear your absolute joy and amazement as you meet your baby and the tears stream down my face. Yes, I want to do that again. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful videos. All OB’s should be like yours–calm, reassuring, and trusting in your womanly birthing instincts.

  25. Leandra

    I’m way late in finding this posting, but so glad I got to see A’s birth. I found myself cheering you on, grunting along with you, and of course, crying… and wanting another baby.

  26. Becky

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing these videos. I want a natural birth but I kept hearing so many horror stories that I was afraid I couldn’t do one. Your birth is beautiful and it shows how amazing a natural birth can be. I cried with you at the last video. I broke into a giant smile and then started to cry with you; it was such an emotional moment.

    Congratulations on your bundle of joy and thank you again for sharing something so private with a stranger.

  27. Cyndel J
    Cyndel J04-20-2011

    People call me crazy for watching birth videos at more then 36 weeks along (even though this is my second child and second natural birth they think that the vids will terrify and stress me out). But this was amazing, I started grinning when they said the head was out and haven’t stopped yet! I’m so looking forward to meeting my little one in a few weeks! Rather then stressing me out or worrying me these vids remind me how many women do this daily, and how natural birth is. The pain truly doesn’t frighten me!

  28. Hillary

    Oh my gosh! Somehow I’m just seeing these now! What gift–thank you so much for sharing. You were amazing and hearing you meet your baby was priceless. Beautiful mama!

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