Elizabeth Petrucelli

Author, Blogger, Educator

Tag: birth

What Does it Mean to Bring a Baby “Earthside” and Why it’s Offensive

EarthsideIt’s a term I have heard over and over. In fact, I have used the term in the past but now, I can no longer use the term. It’s offensive! It makes my stomach turn each time I hear it and it’s now considered a trigger. Earthside…or as most often used: “Bringing Baby Earthside.”

A trite term used to describe birthing a baby, the term earthside is offensive to many mothers. There are birthing coloring books called Bringing Baby Earthside, a fantastic tool for pregnant women to help relieve stress and focus on the positive aspects of birth but needs a new name; blogs written about the “earthside” baby such as this one from Birth Without FearPinterest pages dedicated to bringing babies earthside and even Etsy shops with onesies stating “Finally Earthside”. Babies are being welcomed “Earthside” in birth story after birth story.

No definition exists yet on what bringing a baby earthside means. Thank God and I sincerely hope this never becomes a definable term. This phrase needs to disappear as quickly as it came in the typical fad fashion. From Oxford Dictionary, earthside is defined as “on or from the planet earth.”

Unless a religion or belief states otherwise, while a woman is pregnant, her baby is actually on earth. I suppose if the pregnant woman is in space, the baby wouldn’t be on planet earth but where the baby is, so is the mother. The womb is not some intergalactic, off-the-planet place where babies form through stars into human beings and use hyperdrive to perfectly time their birth on this earth [insert sarcasm].

While human creation is a miracle and some might consider it supernatural, it’s not intergalactic. There is plenty of science that supports perfect timing for sperm meeting the egg, creating a pregnancy and forming life, which develops into a human being, and is born via a human being; all of which allegedly takes place on planet Earth. So if we are welcoming baby earthside, where has this baby been the last nine months or so?

Welcoming a baby earthside discounts the pregnancy experience as something it’s not. If the baby is not on this earth, as bringing baby earthside suggests, then how does the mother bond with her baby? If the baby in her womb is not earthside, does she have to help the baby in any way? What obligation does the mother have to the baby who is not earthside? Does the baby even exist? Is there a ball of stars within the mothers womb, bouncing around in there?

In my childbirth education classes, my students are told they are parents from the moment they became pregnant. One could possibly state that they became parents even before pregnancy because they have made decisions for the baby before that baby was even conceived. Oftentimes, my students are a bit confused to be called parents so early in their pregnancy.

But what are they if they are not parents? We call them mother and father in classes and that’s the definition of a parent. So as a mother and father of an unborn child they are responsible for caring for that child. If that child dies, they are still a mother and father.

So they are parents, of little humans, on earth, who have not yet been born. On earth is a key phrase here. They are already earthside. Let’s side-step for a moment.

For mothers enduring pregnancy loss, the term earthside takes on a different meaning. This pregnancy loss blog shares a story where the mother writes to the baby she will never meet earthside. While her baby was already “earthside” within her womb, she is using the term earthside to describe the physical form she will never hold on earth. I feel the same way. I will never hold Gus or Ruby “earthside.”

Her pregnancy loss happened very early and she describes how her loss “flowed from her.” No baby to hold, touch, or see, just blood washing her tiny baby out of her. She is a Christian and will not meet her baby on this earth. But in her blog, she shares her ambivalence with her grief and her struggles with the right to grieve. She has every right to grieve her loss. She loved this baby from the moment she suspected she was pregnant. She dreamed of this baby and imagined a new life with this baby in it. She is worthy of her grief but society doesn’t think so and she mentions this as one reason she did not share her loss with others.

Isn’t it enough for loss parents to have to prove to society the legitimacy of their loss without now having to prove their baby/child was “earthside?” If the baby isn’t really here on earth during the pregnancy, then why would a woman have the right to grieve if the baby didn’t really “exist?” Could using the term earthside damage a woman’s right to grieve? A baby’s whole existence is defined through birthing them alive. If a baby is not birthed alive, society questions their existence and mothers are confused and shameful in their grief.

Why must we define birth as coming earthside?

If a mother on earth is pregnant, the baby within her womb is on earth. The baby is already earthside. The baby doesn’t magically become earthside at birth; to say otherwise discounts the miraculous and earthly experience of conception, development, and birth. To say otherwise, minimizes the experiences of pregnancy loss because the baby never took a breath “earthside.” To say earthside at birth, turns the pregnancy experience into something galactic or alien.

Women should feel connected to their unborn, they should revel in the divine or mystical creation of new life and birth. When a woman discovers she is pregnant, she should shout from the rooftops: WELCOME EARTHSIDE! And when the baby is born she should rejoice, welcome her baby into her loving arms and into the tenderness of her nourishing bosom.

There is no need to define birthing a baby as bringing a baby earthside because the baby already was earthside. A simple “Welcome Baby” is sufficient.

But maybe, just maybe we are also using earthside as a euphemism. A way to describe birth without saying the word birth because to do so, would present the experience of birth as it is currently represented: fear-based, messy, and exhausting. Bringing a baby earthside certainly sounds more pleasant. Sign me up for bringing a baby earthside but “birthing a baby?” Eeewww.

Bringing a baby earthside is just a substitute for the unpleasant thoughts of “birth.” Instead of empowering women to birth, maybe if we just change the word “birth” to the word “earthside,” women will all of a sudden feel confident and comfortable with the experience and their fear will magically disappear?! [sarcasm] As an educator, I suppose I no longer need to teach about the experience of birth but about how to bring a baby “earthside” where there is no pain and your baby is transformed out of your womb, down a rainbow and onto your chest [more sarcasm].

This is no different than storks bringing babies to hopeful mothers. It’s a myth that is perpetuated as a distraction from what birth really is: a transformation which might be uncomfortable and/or painful but it is a transformation nonetheless.

Let’s stop using the term earthside. It’s distracting, it’s offensive, it’s a myth. Women birth babies. We have since time began. Babies aren’t dropped off by storks, they don’t come earthside (they were already on Earth); babies emerge from our wombs, through our vagina or in some cases, via surgical birth. We can’t change that no matter what term we use.

He’s Here!

So we had our little boy on his due date. It was quite a journey and still is right now but for those waiting for the birth story, here it is!

My water broke spontaneously while I was lying in bed at 6:15am on 6/5. I felt the POP and the baby jump at the same time. I remembered this feeling from Joey’s birth but I had been contracting and walking when his broke, not lying in bed so this was an interesting feeling. I tried to ignore it because I didn’t really want to believe it. As much as I wanted to have my baby AND have labor start in the morning after a good night’s rest, I didn’t want my water to break first because I knew that meant he was most likely positioned wrong.

After about 10 minutes lying there in wait with NOTHING coming out, I decided to make my way to the restroom. I held my legs together as I quickly walked to the toilet but before I could sit down, it gushed out everywhere. I lost about a cup of fluid. It was clear, thank goodness. As I sat on the toilet waiting for it to stop, I gently called for Jason who was sleeping in bed. I heard him say, “Hmmmm,” when I called his name. I said, “My water just broke.” Then, with as much enthusiasm as when I told him I was pregnant, he jumped out of bed exclaiming, “It did?!”

“Yup. We need to get up,” I replied. Jason went into high gear of preparing everything in case the baby came fast. He wanted to wake Joey up but it was only an hour before he had to be up anyway and we can rush him out the door if we had to. Jason loaded the car and made breakfast. Nothing was happening however. My uterus was quiet.

Nothing really happened for a few hours. I had minor cramping and I didn’t really know what to do, so I just walked around the house like I was stupid for a while. I was very excited to tell Joey that he wouldn’t be going to school today so I waited at the bottom of the stairs when I heard him jump down from his bed. It felt like forever before he came out his room door. I knew he would go straight to the shower so I yelled at him to come to the top of the stairs. As Jason and I stood there looking up at him, I began to get teary and said, “Sorry honey, you won’t be going to school today.” He said, “Did your water break?” I replied, “Yes. It did.” He got a huge smile on his face and said, “YAY! When do we go to the hospital?” I told him it wasn’t time just yet but to get in the shower and get something to eat because it might be a long day.

I ate breakfast but was hungry again an hour later. So I asked Jason to make me something more and I finally sat down. I had been standing and walking around for almost two hours. We had texted the doula to let her know to be on alert as well but she wasn’t needed here yet. Then, I felt like I had to pee but when I stood up, I lost a ton more fluid. I felt it coming and yelled at Jason to get a towel. Joey was great and ran to get more supplies as my water poured out all over the kitchen floor. I had never seen so much before even when my water had broken with Joey’s birth. This time though, the fluid was a bit brown. I knew there was meconium but I didn’t stress because it wasn’t green and thick. The labor pains began almost instantly that time.

I instinctively had to stay standing and rocked side to side while I contracted. I told the doula to head over. Jason and I were planning on laboring at home for a while but I soon changed my mind. The drive to the hospital was 45 minutes and my contractions were already two minutes apart. I had also become very shaky which was a sign things were progressing. The contractions weren’t lasting long but I was worried we would have the baby at home. As nice as that would have been, we didn’t want me to bleed out. So, Jason told the doula to meet us at the hospital because we were leaving.

I had Jason put a shower curtain in the back seat of his car and I got in. I listened to music on the way to the hospital and just zoned out. It was really nice despite all the contractions. We got to the hospital and our doula was there waiting. She assisted me to triage and we began our routine for labor. I was still quite shaky. The midwives thought I might be in transition so I was checked. Unfortunately, I was only 3cm. I wasn’t disheartened as the shakiness can be a sign of moving from the latent phase of labor into active labor. I laughed when they said I wasn’t in “active labor” yet because this sure was hard work already.

We wanted a natural minded nurse so I had to labor in triage for a while because that nurse was in a c-section at the moment. The only thing I really wanted was a tub and they didn’t have that in triage. So, I stood alot, sat on the birth ball, and leaned over as much as I could to help my baby get into a good position. After what felt like several hours, I got moved to a labor and delivery room and was able to get into the bath tub as soon as I had been monitored for the required 20 minute time.

I labored well but when the monitoring was over, I had to get in the bath tub. Once in the tub, I began to get shaky and nauseated. Contractions were still every 2 minutes. The nurse wanted to check me again as she thought I was in transition. It had been about 7 hours since my water had broken. She checked me and I was still a 3. I had been a 3 for about 4 hours at this point.

I was very disappointed but optimistic things would change. I got back in the tub and changed positions. Things got really intense at that point. I felt like I was struggling and I was really getting tired. Jason was amazing and by my side the entire time. Joey was also relief for me as he ran to refill water, refill the tub, etc. Jason kept telling me I was doing really well and how proud he was of me. It felt really nice and was very helpful  but after another 2 hours, I began to ask for an epidural. I had told Jason and my doula that I had to ask for it 3 times before they let me have it. So, we opted to be checked again before I got one.

I got checked and I was still a 3, maybe a 4. I said I was done and wanted the epidural. We tried a few other positions to see if that changed anything but ultimately, my mind was made up. Jason and my doula kept telling me I was doing a great job with each contraction and that I didn’t look like I was struggling but in my mind, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I needed to be progressing to keep going and I couldn’t do this any longer staying in the “latent” phase of labor.

I got the epidural and everyone was hoping it would go fast from this point like it did with Joey’s birth (3-10 in less than an hour). Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. I labored very slowly with the epidural but eventually made progress. By 10pm that night, I was exhausted but started to feel shaky and nauseated again. The epidural kept my legs numb but I had horrendous uterine pain. I was beyond wanting to die. The epidural didn’t allow me to get up which is what I needed to do in order to relieve the pain.

They brought in anesthesiology again and they helped get things under control. At midnight, the nurse came in and said my baby’s heart rate had decels. She said he was probably ready to be born but I needed to flip over just in case. She got me flipped over and checked me. I was complete and ready to push.

She asked me to do a practice push and then yelled at me to stop. They got the labor team in as well as the NICU team (due to the meconium). I continued to push and 10 minutes later my little man was born. Jason got to catch him and hand him to me. It was the most amazing moment of my life. I kept hearing that his head was out and when I looked down, I saw Jason holding our new son screaming, with part of his body still inside me. Jason folded our new son up towards me and I pulled him the rest of the way out.

Our son was placed on my chest even though they were worried about the meconium. As I held our new son, we all cried. Joey was astonished and was so happy to have his brother in the world where he would teach him everything. Joey was offered to cut the cord and immediately said he wanted to. I watched as Jason assisted Joey in cutting his brother’s umbilical cord. We also got the delayed cord clamping that we wanted so it was very nice. I got to hold our new son for 2 hours before anyone touched him or any procedures were done. The baby latched on 45 minutes after birth and has been an amazing nurser.

I DID end up hemorrhaging due to my prior Asherman’s Syndrome. The placenta did not detach all the way until 30 minutes after birth. They thought they might have to take me to the OR but it finally came lose. I didn’t need any extra blood either.

I have had some complications for the first few days. I had a numb right leg for over 48 hours. This was due to poor placement of the epidural. I also have and STILL have, severe uterine pain. I was on 4 different pain killers to make it manageable but things are okay now. I am only taking 2 of the 4 now. It doesn’t seem to affect our baby at all.

My milk came in today and we are doing much better. We are taking it easy and doing nothing for the most part. We have had neighbors bring over lunches and dinner which REALLY helps so if you haven’t had your baby yet, be sure to set this up. It’s one less thing to worry about.

The journey was rough and it’s still hard with the baby blues setting in but I am so happy to have my son!

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