**I was thinking about turning off comments for this post so I don’t get any negative responses but decided I would miss all the good positive responses (if any). I don’t mind civil discourse but please refrain from telling me I’m nuts, k? thanks**
In case you didn’t know I’m a research librarian. That means that I’ve already read every mainstream book on pregnancy and childbirth and I’m having to delve into obscure texts and scientific literature. Because of this I’m starting early on my birth plan and actually my birth philosophy. I keep reading because it is so discouraging the comments I get from other Moms. When I ask “did you have an epidural?” they look at me like I’m crazy and say “hell, yeah.” Forget even mentioning I want to “go natural” they outright laugh at me. I’ve decided not to bring it up anymore but some people ask me what I want. Unfortunately, besides on my message boards I know no woman who had (or wanted) a natural birth. The condescending “oh she’ll break” attitude is really hard to take. So, I will be well informed – and after all, as with this blog, my true audience is my baby. I want her to know why I did what I did.
So, first – we decided to go with a midwife. There are many reasons for this and reading books about natural childbirth will give them all to you but here is the one that really sunk in for me: Obstetricians are trained surgeons. Did you hear that? SURGEONS. They exist for surgical intervention (forceps, vacuum extraction, and cesareans). Now, this isn’t a bad thing at all and thank God we live in a time with such a low infant/maternal mortality rate. But 95% of all births do not need surgery. So, why do 90% of American women use OBs for their maternity care? Second just think about it – the OB comes in for the last 1/2 hour – she is there to make sure your baby is delivered alive and healthy. A midwife, being a nurse (in our case), treats both patients – the mother and the baby – and helps with the overall birth experience.
Birth experience? Yeah, most people aren’t big on those. Birth is something to “survive” and “get through.” The result is desirable (a baby) but the process is not (labor and delivery). This wasn’t always the case. It is hard to explain to most women why anyone would every consider a “painful” delivery when medicine exists to blissfully take it away. I admit at first it was hard for me to explain – I didn’t know why it just felt right. I think the reason is kind of spiritual. I remember talking to my sister once about breastfeeding. I think she might have said she didn’t want to do it. I made her yell (picture Cuba Gooding Jr. yelling “show me the money”) “I am a MAMMAL!” LOL My point was that our bodies were uniquely made for just that thing and we were cheating ourselves out of our purpose by not breastfeeding. I feel the same way about experiencing labor and birth completely.
My mom’s birth of me, although she tells it fondly and wouldn’t typify it this way, was traumatizing! She had no idea what was going on, she was alone, she wasn’t asked about anything. She actually hallucinated in the delivery room. She remembers seeing smoke and a big butcher knife in the dr. hand. Now, I’m hoping this was hallucination because I’m pretty sure even in 1975 huge kitchen knives were not used for episiotomies. She also tells how she was gripping the bed rail in fear and the nurse kept telling her to relax and let go so she could insert the IV. Mom remembers wanting to comply but watching idly by as the nurse peeled her hand free finger by finger. She also had a first reaction to her baby (me) of bland disinterest. Of course she did! She was in shock and relieved to have the trauma over. (Note, I have an awesome mom and she bonded the hell out of me eventually.) My dad, who was forced to wait for word of his wife’s fate remembers pounding on the nursery glass because he thought the nurse was handling me roughly for my first bath. He, of course, had yet to even hold me.
Now trust me, I know that all medicalized births are not like this and that some babies would die without medical intervention. But, this is not the birth experience I imagine for myself. Even Jenny McCarthy (whose book Belly Laughs is hilarious and a must read for expecting mothers), who birthed her son in this millenium had an IV for fluids, and epidural, and a catheter – she might as well have been tied to a bed!
Lots of things in life that are worthwhile hurt. Running a marathon, training to be an elite gymnast, etc. Have you ever seen a ballet dancer’s feet bleed? I remember when I backpacked to the continental divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had everything I needed strapped to my back and I had to get to the top of the trail before nightfall to set up my tent. I thought I was going to DIE! Every part of me hurt so bad I wanted to cry. I really thought I couldn’t go on. But I did. I put up my tent with numb fingers, tied my food in a anti-bear canister and slung it over a tree branch and finally collapsed fully dressed, in my hiking boots into my sleeping bag. The next morning when I woke up at the top of a mountain I wanted to cry again at how beautiful it was and how worth the pain the experience was. I’ll never forget this – it one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I guess what it comes down to is this: I am more powerful than I know. I am uniquely made to birth a baby. I know that barring circumstances that threaten the life of my baby, I CAN give birth as women have for millenia. I know it will hurt but I also know it will feel exhilarating.