Congratulations to Laila Ali on the birth of her second child, daughter Sydney, on April 4th! We had a chance to catch up with the awesome boxer, Dancing with Stars alum and daughter of Muhammed Ali before she gave birth, and were inspired by her fantastic attitude about the birthing process, and what she learned along the way.
Best for Babes: How did you prepare for birth the first time?
Laila Ali: I watched Ricki Lake’s video, “The Business of Being Born[a] ” . . . just watching these women be strong, I thought that’s what I want to do, that’s what I have to do. But at the same time I knew that there was a possibility that I would have to go to the hospital, and I was prepared to do that as well. Being a strong woman and a mother-to-be and having natural instincts, I knew that I would do the right thing and be in the right position. Whatever I needed to do to make sure that my baby was born healthy, that’s what I was going to do. To me, when you decide to be a mother and give birth, it’s not just about having a little cute baby and dressing the baby up. A lot of women look at all the positive cute sides to it, but it’s a real job, one of the hardest, most rewarding jobs you’re ever going to have in life. It’s not about you anymore. I’ll tell a mom, yes, you’ve got to take time for yourself, but really, it’s all about the baby.
BfB: Are you planning on trying for another home birth?
Laila: No. I have decided to have a natural birth at the hospital. I knew that after the first time. When I was first thinking about doing a homebirth, I also knew that there was an option to have a natural birth at the hospital with a midwife, and I hear they do that at UCLA, but the midwife I wanted to use didn’t work out of UCLA, so then I thought, okay, I’ll just do the homebirth. It turned out that I had some issues that meant I wasn’t able to do the homebirth, because you have to have a 100% normal birthing situation. My son was growing in a way that meant I had to be monitored, and I knew I would have to go to the hospital after a certain point. But I still wanted to do it natural. Of course then I ended up having to be induced[b], and I knew it would be even worse with the pain, because now I’m doing it all natural[c] with pitocin, which is crazy.
BfB: So you’re planning on using a midwife again?
Laila: No, I’m not going to have a midwife, I’m going to have a doula[d]. My doctor, Dr. Chin, who ended up delivering my first baby, he works with midwives, there are actually midwives in his office, so he’s one of those doctors you can trust[e], he’s not going to be find a way to get me to have a c-section, or rush me or anything like that. He understands my birth plan, and what my goals are. The bottom line is that you have to have a baby in the way that you are the most comfortable because that is when you are going to have your best, easiest birth. This time, because of what I went through, what is most comfortable for me is to do it at the hospital. I want to be monitored so I can know what is going on and have the best of both worlds–still have my baby naturally but make sure the baby is being monitored so I know what’s going on. I had to be on bed rest a couple of times with this pregnancy as well, because there were a couple of times where I got an ultrasound and there were growth issues again, but then everything kind of leveled out.
When I was going to do a home birth with my first, Ricki Lake interviewed me for her book about how I was going to do a home birth, 100% natural . . . but we already know that things can happen that you don’t expect. I am now 100% comfortable saying no, I don’t want to have a homebirth this time. Some people thought I was the “home birthing queen” but no, I’m the “do what’s best for my baby and me and my peace of mind type of person”. So I’m still doing it natural, but I’m doing it at the hospital with a doula.
BfB: So many moms don’t know about how birth impacts breastfeeding, and that inductions and c-sections can not only increase the risk of maternal mortality, but dull the baby’s breastfeeding instincts. Often, these babies don’t nurse as well initially, and so they are off to a slower start and there’s more catch-up needed, which can be stressful. Those babies can still go on to be great nursers but moms need to know how to facilitate that.
Laila: And moms need to know that you can have a birthing plan and let the hospital know. Like me, they knew that I don’t want my baby taken out of the room, I want the baby in here, I want all the testing done in the room with me, don’t offer my baby a bottle, all these different types of things that you can be in control of. I know that each hospital is different and people have different types of insurance, and there’s different quality of care, but you can at least go in with a plan, and try to have a better outcome. Instead of having the attitude of, “I don’t care what you do”, you can take control, you can guide them a little bit, and take responsibility for the kind of birth and breastfeeding experience you want to have.
BfB: Well said!
We’ve put our resources and tips for you below. Would you consider hiring a doula? Expecting babes, what is your attitude about birth and the unexpected?
[a] In addition to the Business of Being Born DVD and the My Best Birth book and website, there are lots of great resources that can help moms have a healthy and empowered birth, with better birth outcomes. We’re checking out Brio Birth, based on the Bradley method, as the new up-and-coming mainstream birthing classes, and LOVE the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) which has lots of free, downloadable resources for moms to use in making sure their birth facility and providers are Mother-friendly. You can also create an interactive birth plan at childbirth.org.
[b] for more about why so many labors end up with unnecessary medical interventions, or “pushed”, see PushedBirth.com, also see this Time.com article on a report by Amnesty International finding that not only are c-section rates skyrocketing but maternal mortality rates are on the rise too: “Too Many Women Dying in U.S. While Having Babies.”
[c] “natural” in this case means without pain medications. Pitocin is a synthetic hormone designed to mimic oxytocin by speeding up labor.
[d] There are two kinds of doulas, labor and postpartum. Laila is using a labor doula–studies show that a labor doula can lower your risk of a c-section and other interventions like forceps, see 4 Reasons to Have A Doula at your Birth, reduce labor length and improve the birth experience for moms and babies. A post-partum doula is someone who helps you after the birth. To find either a labor or a postpartum doula near you, go to dona.org and plug in your zipcode.