January 17, 2012

Informed Birthing


I am very opinionated when it comes to child birth. That’s something I will make no bones about. Over the course of the two and half years since I had H, I’ve felt like some people have taken my zeal for the subject in the wrong way. I’ve started feeling a bit like a leper. That won’t do.

This was taken literally 14 minutes after H was born. Best day of my life so far.

First and foremost, no matter what my thoughts or opinions, all I want for anyone is to have a healthy baby. I ultimately do not care how your baby arrives. It could come via FedEx for all I care. As long as everyone’s healthy and happy, it doesn’t really matter. Also, it’s YOUR body. Do with it what you want.

To back up a few steps, let me share how it came to be that I had H at home. It all started because epidurals, personally, weird me out. The thought of a needle going in my spine gives me the willies. And I don’t mind needles. I can watch while they draw my blood. I’ve seen open heart surgery from the gallery. But the needle in the spine weirds me out. Epidurals being effectively eliminated, that left me with natural child birth.

A lot of your opinions of child birth, I think, come from what you’ve heard your mom say while you were growing up. My mom happens to be one of those women we all hate. She had my brother in four hours and me in two. Natural child birth for both. She pushed me out so fast that both my shoulders popped out at once, and I broke my collarbone. Hearing those stories as I grew up led me to believe that child birth was nothing to be afraid of and that it was a normal, good thing to do. Josh is a wonderful, supportive husband, so he was good with whatever I wanted to do.

About halfway through my pregnancy I decided we should take a birth class. I had heard of Bradley from a few friends, and there was a class in Charleston. Really the choices in birth classes went 4 weeks at the hospital and the last week was a hospital tour (we were moving and wouldn’t deliver there, so only 3 weeks would be helpful) or 12 weeks for Bradley. I figured that I’d learn more in 12 weeks. The Bradley Method, briefly, is a course in natural child birth that focuses on different coping techniques and where the husband figures prominently as a coach for the mom.

Until I took Bradley all I had read was What to Expect. During that class I started doing a lot more reading from the teacher’s personal library and learning from the class itself. Bottom line: I got educated. I learned about birth, nutrition, complications, coping measures, and breastfeeding basics. My belief that natural birth was a good thing was reinforced and grew in complexity. I came to understand how my body could do such a miraculous thing as grow a baby and deliver it to the world. I learned about the natural processes involved. I grew firm in my belief that I had made a good choice.

When we came to Dover it was a significant downgrade in birthing options. Charleston has five hospitals and a birth center. Dover has one hospital. We had been connected with a midwife here through our Bradley instructor. I asked for advice finding an OB friendly toward natural child birth. At the time, that list was pretty much non-existent. When we toured the hospital, the nurse was incredibly condescending, dismissed the thought of a birth plan and natural child birth, and told me not to feel bad when I caved and got drugs, because everybody did. And they have a c-section rate of 30%. That might be the national average, but it’s way too high for my comfort level. No one will ever get me to believe that one in three women is incapable of delivering a child. The species could not have survived thousands of years if that were the case.

You may recall me saying that I am highly opinionated. This attitude would not work for me. Josh and I did a lot of soul searching. We were extremely concerned that the hospital experience here would be negative for us and that we would spend a lot of time fighting with the staff. We live very close to the hospital and had huge confidence in the midwives we had met. We decided to try the homebirth.

I won’t go into the whole birth story and add a few more pages to this long post, but suffice to say, it was one of the most rewarding, beautiful experiences of my life. It was not without pain. I remember early on saying to Josh, “This is why women get epidurals.” But I never felt like I couldn’t do it. I pushed for two hours. (For me pushing didn’t hurt. It was pressure, but it felt almost good.) When that tiny girl was born I felt like I could take over the world. Giving birth is the single most empowering moment of my life.

This is not to say that other births could not be empowering as well. But I can only speak from my experience. So you see, I have done my research on birth. I loved my natural birth. I love the whole she-bang so much that I have serious plans to get two more advanced degrees so I can be a certified nurse midwife when Josh retires.

I will never ask that you agree with me. I will never ask that you go along with me just for the sake of going along or because you think I know best. All I ask is that, whatever decision you make regarding your birth, inform yourself.

I have several friends who wanted dearly to have natural births and didn’t. I don’t judge them. I love them. No one but you is in your skin. No one but you knows when enough is enough.

At the same time, if you tell me that you’re getting induced before your due date for a non-medical reason, because I care about people and want what’s best for them, I might tell you that pre-term inductions lead to a higher c-section rate than waiting to go on your own. I’m going to tell you that because it’s the truth. One of my quirks is that I am terrible at deceit. But you are a big girl. You can ignore me. And guess what? We’ll still be friends. If after that you have a c-section, I will not sit around and judge you. I will be sad for you because c-sections are harder to recover from, because you missed out on something I consider to be very meaningful, because things didn’t go the way you wanted and that’s a sad thing. I think that’s called compassion.

In closing, I ask you, how much time while you are/were pregnant did you spend researching cribs, strollers, car seats, diapers, formula, or bottles? How much time was spent decorating the baby’s room? I know the hours and hours and hours I spent. Now, how much time did you spend thinking about your birth and your body during your birth? Before you went to the hospital, did you know what machines they might hook you up to? Had you talked to your doctor about possible side effects of epidurals? (They are not without side effects.) Car seats, strollers, cribs, and all are important, don’t get me wrong. Yet, so many women completely ignore the birth, thinking that between nature and doctors it will all be taken care of. But you, you are the driving force. You can and should have control of your own birth, whatever form it takes.

Don’t give up your power. Don’t let someone else tell you what is right or best. Take the time to educate yourself. Know that whatever decision you make, whatever curve ball life throws you, that you are making the informed choice. That’s all I want for anyone.

3 comments:

  1. Do you have any books you'd recommend as research?

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  2. Great question. Here are four that I've found really informative and even inspiring. Henci Goer's _The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth_: It reviews the medical literature for the most common birth interventions and breaks it down pros and cons. _Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth_ by Ina May Gaskin: If you get past the hippy-ness, the birth stories are very inspiring and the second half has great information on the body's mechanics during birth. Dr. Robert Bradley's _Husband-Coached Childbirth_: This gives you the whole Bradley method. And _The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding_ from the Le Leche League. Happy reading!

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  3. I'll check them out. Thanks!

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