…and I think maybe you should be, too.
Ashley’s post on her birthing experience a few weeks ago had me in reflection for awhile.
I have three kids. With each pregnancy, I’ve gone into the birth with a completely different attitude. Each time, I got a healthy baby out of the deal. But my first birth instilled in me something I totally was not expecting: I became a crazy control freak about my birthing experiences.
With my first, I fully intended to have an unmedicated childbirth. I read books by Ina May and Dr. Sears, studied others’ experiences, and watched The Business of Being Born. We went to the near-mandatory childbirth class. I talked to my obstetrician.
And then, after being in dehydrated labor for a full day, two nights of no sleep, and coming into the hospital at 7cm (after being turned back home once the night before), I. Was. Exhausted. I wasn’t sure I could push that child into the world. So I had an epidural.
Remember how I was 7cm already? Well, it was another six hours before my baby was actually born. The epidural slowed my labor down considerably. And before she actually came into the world, we had every intervention in the book except a c-section: epidural, pitocin, internal monitoring, vacuum, episiotomy, oxygen for mama. The OB told me if her heart rate dropped one more time, I would go to the OR for the cesarean. I basically had no idea what was going on; after the birth, the fact that I’d had the episiotomy was news to me. I did get them to turn off my epidural for pushing, but that was the only thing I felt like I made a decision about. [Her full birth story is here – but it was pretty soon after I had her, so my reflections aren’t the same.]
So, when my daughter was about 17 months old, we got pregnant again.
By then, I had processed most of my feelings about my daughter’s birth. Yes, I was glad to come through it with a healthy child. But I was disappointed that everything had felt so out-of-control. I was determined to be different this time. Even if it was medically necessary for me to have interventions, I wanted to know WHY, WHEN, and HOW they were happening.
Since we had moved cities at this point, it was easy to switch to a midwife from a traditional OB. I still wanted to give birth in a hospital, but I wanted to make sure someone heard me. The first midwife wasn’t a good fit with my personality and couldn’t seem to remember me between appointments, so I left and found someone else. (Y’all, I am not a high maintenance person or a diva. I swear. But I have never regretted that decision.)
I tackled Hypnobirthing with a passion as a way to guide me through a natural birth. It wasn’t really for me, and I fell asleep nearly every time I practiced (because wild toddler at home), but it was great practice for relaxing. I got a giant birth ball and sat on it often. I reread stories. And I knew that this birth, I REALLY wanted no interventions if possible.
My midwife (who is not the crunchy granola type you might expect by the title) was willing to let me see it through, but reminded me second babies often come quickly. At some point past 39 weeks, she asked me if I would induce. NO. I was going to avoid induction at all costs and go into labor on my own (again).
Sadly my blood pressure put a kink in that tale. At 39 weeks, 5 days, I was told I was having a baby that day because my blood pressure was something like 150/100. My midwife broke my water to induce me, and then I fought her over starting Pitocin. I won. Because I was already half in labor, breaking the water was enough to send me into full labor. I got a bag of fluids – but not before making sure that IT WAS NECESSARY with my midwife.
Following was the most painful seven hours of my life. (OK, mostly, just the last two hours or so.) I cried. I showered. I sat on the birth ball at all times unless they were doing the once-an-hour monitoring (and even that I found that eventually they could do while I was on the ball). (P.S.: Women’s East had a way better, bigger birth ball than the one I brought. I love that place.) At one point I caved and asked for the epidural; I was told the baby was going to be here before the anesthesiologist. I went from 7cm to having the baby out in about 15 minutes, the most desperately insane 15 minutes of my life.
But once this baby was out in the world, I felt like I had been in charge of my own labor. Despite the fact that we had about 12 different nurses during the 7-hour labor (it was the week of Christmas) and I begged the nurses to just let me go home because there was no way I could actually do this – I DID IT. I did it the way I wanted to. If I had had that epidural, it still would have been my own decision, and I believe I would have still felt in control. [David’s full birth story here.]
With my third child, I made no commitments before I went into labor. I was pretty sure I would want an epidural; and yes, after having contractions for the better part of three days, I did. I did have some Pitocin when Joshua was a little stuck. But my midwife talked with me about these decisions and got my confirmation. I never felt out-of-control or like someone else was making my decisions. My third birth was incredibly pleasant, really.