When I got pregnant with my first child, my little Bunny, I didn't know much about labor and delivery. I mean, my mom had always told me the stories of her births--seven of them, which were all vaginal, but not without interventions--but that was the extent of it. I also watched my share of "A Baby Story" and a TV show that I can't seem to find anymore called "House of Babies" about a midwife and the adventures she and her team encountered at their birthing center. I felt like I was educated in the matter, but there's nothing like going through labor and delivery yourself to discover what you wish could have been different.
Now, I have to let you in on a secret, before I go on here. I hate Mommy guilt and I don't want this post to make any amazing Mama out there feel that her delivery was inferior. No matter how you give birth and/or choose to labor, the experience is going to be magical. From C-sections, to inductions, to water births, it's ultimately not about the process, but the outcome and the adrenaline that pumps through you and the excitement that you feel at all stages of the process knowing that you are about to increase your family unit. This joy, this reward cannot be measured no matter what the means of getting there. I look back on my daughters birth--wrought with interventions--which joy and happiness. Even the most difficult hours are some of the most treasured moments I've spent on this earth. However, that doesn't stop me from wanting to do it differently next time.
With Bunny, I did a few things that set me on a path I now wish I hadn't taken. First of all, I went with an OB/GYN. Theyre great for emergencies and high risk situations, but they're medical doctors and honestly, giving birth really isn't medical. Secondly, after waiting 8 days past my due date, when my OB suggested induction, I was all in, no questions asked. Honestly, the choices made after that (which I prefer hadn't been made) were already sort of set in stone once I decided to be induced. Upon being induced with Cervidil, dilation began to happen and after a couple of hours I was almost 4cm dilated and in the throws of the most intense and painful contractions I could have imagined. In fact, I was sure this was active labor and I would be ready to push at any minute. The nurses offered me an epidural for hours and I refused, opting to walk, sit in the tub, bounce on a ball, and get massages instead. When they checked me after a couple of hours of this awful pain, I hadn't dilated anymore at all. I was exhausted, tired, and I threw in the towel. Once they gave me the epidural, I felt nothing--well, other than the tickly itchiness that started right under my boobs and ran all the way down to my legs for about an hour. I slept, I relaxed, we watched TV and honestly it was awesome. They put me on Pitocin drip then and broke my water and over the course of the next 10 hours I dilated nicely. During this time I was unable to move, I was lying on my back in the bed, both me and my baby were constantly monitored, and I was hooked up to an IV and a catheter--all things I hadn't wanted. I started feeling pressure down below and when they checked, they said I was 10 cm and I could push. They told me when it was time to push and dictated that I do so regularly and rhythmically with a specific rhythm and pattern. I did so for two and a half hours while my daughters head stubbornly popped out and then back in over and over, taunting us with just the image of her dark, black hair. The pushing part was actually relaxing. Just me, my husband, and a nurse and sometimes just me and my husband. They'd hold my feet up, we'd count, I got my breathing just right, and after 2 hours I learned just what I needed to do to get those contraction lines on the monitor to go right up to the top of the paper. I felt like a pushing machine! But she wasn't coming out very quickly. Then, the OB/GYN came in like a super star, making the amount of face time Id actually had with her about 10 minutes total over the course of the day. "Your'e gonna push for another hour before she comes," the superwoman said, "Why don't we use the vacuum?" She suggested. Let me tell you, when someone suggests things like vacuums and pitocin to a woman who is in the middle of labor and not all in her right mind, that woman isn't going to give the answer she would give if she had all her reasoning capabilities. Okay, do the vacuum, I said, exhausted. One more intervention checked off the list. She pulled out the vacuum (really just a glorified suction cup) and used it and I couldn't believe the sudden pressure and even pain as my daughter was wrenched out of me apart from my own actions. Suddenly all my pushing skills were lost in confusion because I couldn't figure out who was doing the work--me, or the doctor. She yelled at me at this point, "I can't do this all by myself!" but I was so confused. How did I start to push when the baby was already being pulled out? I tried and must have succeeded because in moments my daughters huge little head was hanging out, all purple and bloody, from between my two legs. The rest was a blur. Her shoulders also hurt a little but I wasn't paying attention to that any longer now that my eyes were locked with the most amazing human being I'd ever seen. I yelled for my husband (who was also in a state of shock) to take pictures of the bloody, beautiful scene, and before I knew it she was in my arms, all 9 pounds, 5 ounces of her. I remember looking up at my husband and feeling badly that they'd given her to me. I felt he needed a chance to hold her after 9 long months of my hogging her so I handed her over. It didn't occur to me that I'd just relinquished hold of her for what would be over an hour of her getting checked in the far corner of the room away from my hungry sight and touch and me getting stitched up from the colossal 3rd degree tear that had been inflicted upon me from her birth. I spent the next hour being the most annoying woman in the world--my head was craned to see my baby while I directed my husband to please ignore me and follow her and photograph and videotape her every move and every cry. She was here, she was finally here and I could only barely see from across the room as they cleaned her up, checked her oxygen, did her APGAR test, and who knows what else. Is she almost ready? Can I hold her? Are you almost done? Please, please can I hold her? How many more stitches? Will it be much longer? Please, can I just hold her? I said things like this constantly for that hour as my arms and my body ached for the little girl who was wailing from across the room. Then, finally, they did give her to me all bundled and swaddled in hospital clothes and a hat that was far too small for her giant little head. They gave her to me and it was magic as I investigated her face, kissed her lips, and locked eyes with her, promising that I would always be the best Mommy I possibly could be.
Now, having been through birth and its amazingly beautiful mysteries, I want to do it again. Forgive me for putting it this way, but I want to do it right. A medical, monitored, doctor-led birth wasn't right for me. I want a natural, primal birth directed by mother and baby--barely monitored and gently encouraged from the sidelines as things happen on the timeline that my body dictates and not the social life of a doctor who wants to get home in time for a football game. I want to labor in the tub, walk around, and birth on my hands and knees if thats what feels right. I want to eat if I'm hungry, vomit if I need to, and be buck naked if necessary. I don't want wires and machines and doctors telling me what to do and when. I want my body to do what it knows to do. So I'm going with a midwife this time. My ideal situation would have been a homebirth, and I still sort of want that, but the midwife I chose came highly recommended from a friend who birthed a lovely, natural birth in the hospital (on her hands and knees, mind you) and because I knew her reputation from a source I trusted, I went with her. Then, the more I asked around, the more I realized that this woman is quite a superstar. Doctors, nurses, and patients of all kinds that I've come in contact with during this pregnancy (due to the hyperemesis gravidarum I experienced for the first 3-4 months) just adore and respect her. People in the next state over have heard of her and tell me shes amazing. Then, of course, I met her and had to agree. I talked to her about it and she says she has to do it in the hospital or shell lose the cozy arrangement she has with the facilities and the doctors there--the arrangement that means that they'll help monitor any VBAC's and that she'll have all the resources she needs if an intervention is actually necessary (which it isn't in the majority of the cases). Even then, she suggested a couple of midwives in the area who do homebirths but I realized that the bond had already been forged. It was decided. I was going to stick with this lady because she is awesome and Im going to do a natural birth in the hospital. I've grown to develop a relationship with her and I can't imagine switching to anyone else at this point even though the idea of laboring in a tub in the middle of my living room is still a romantic thought to me. In fact, everyone I've talked to said that my midwife--we'll call her Judy, even though thats not her name--has the knack of making a hospital birth feel just like a homebirth. This has been told me time and time again from doctors and nurses who know and love her to women whove used her and/or had homebirths themselves. This is why my husband and I decided to stick with her.
So, I'm actually five months pregnant today, and in that five months I've already learned a great deal about midwives and I know a lot more about birth than I did before--which is amazing since I've already been through it. I mean, I have ideas as to what to expect with labor, but I can't really address those since I haven't been through it the fully natural way before.
These are some of the reasons I love her so far:
- I can call her anytime. I have about 5 different numbers from office numbers to pagers, to an answering service and finally her cell phone that allow me to reach her anytime I need her. If she can't answer then, she'll always get back to me. Always.
- When I'm in her office, she treats me like Im the only other person in the world who exists. She doesn't rush me or brush my questions off, she listens to the lists I bring each time and answers them truthfully and honestly. I feel completely affirmed and at ease when I'm in her office, like she's not the only expert since I'm the one giving birth.
- She includes my daughter in the ordeal. She makes sure Bunny can hear the heartbeat and has a place to stand or sit during my examinations where she feels comfortable and even takes the time to talk to her when Bunny shows her pictures or asks questions about the baby. (Actually, Bunny doesn't ask many questions, she mostly makes statements because she feels she's the expert on her little brother).
- I've learned so many new things and I've had her examine me in ways an OB never did. She actually went inside my birth canal and measured whether or not I have enough room for a head to fit through. Now if my OB ever did that, I wouldn't know because they didn't inform me as to what they were doing. Judy explains everything she is doing and takes the time to educate me.
- She tells me stories about other births in answers to my questions.
- She explains why things went awry in my last delivery. Did you know that when you get an epidural your baby gets it too? That's why my Bunny had such a hard time latching, and probably why so many women struggle with breastfeeding at first and end up supplementing (which is a bad road to go down if you want to breastfeed).
- She's not opposed to medication. If I wanted an epidural or Stadol with this pregnancy, she'd give it to me. However, I told her I don't want those things to be offered to me, and I don't want her to give them to me even if I ask for them.
- She said that the baby can be examined right on my chest rather than in the far corner of the room when he's born, and that I can nurse him immediately. That may seem like a small thing to you, but it's the one thing that really matters--that immediate skin to skin and bonding time with my son.
- When I make suggestions or questions about what I want during my birth, she doesn't roll her eyes and suggest I've been watching too much "A Baby Story" (my OB actually did that) and make me feel stupid. She takes it to heart, validates me, and assures me that shell do everything in her power to give me the birth I want.
- She's open to natural methods and cures. When I suggested things like chiropractic care or alternative medicine to my OBs, they told me that was dangerous and I shouldn't do it. I ignored them, of course, because I trust my chiropractor more than any medical doctor and I'm thankful I did because he helped keep my first pregnancy healthy. Judy is all for chiropractic care and believes that it can be instrumental in a healthy pregnancy.
Ultimately, I just feel completely safe with my midwife. I feel that my baby will get the best chance at survival and pediatric health with someone like her ensuring that he will come out the way God intended. Yes, a part of me wishes I could do it at home, yet another part of me feels more secure in a hospital knowing that emergency care is just down the hallway. Yet, I also know that there won't be any unnecessary interventions with a patient, caring midwife to walk me through the process. I mean, Im only 5 months along and I already have 10 reasons to never use an OB/GYN again. I can't wait to get to the end of this pregnancy so I can discover what it will be like to have the kind of natural birth I really wanted with my first. I can't wait to experience for myself the wonderful kind of birthing help that everyone claims she is. And of course, all that aside, I really can't wait to meet the little boy who is going to change our lives.