I've been composing this post for a LOOOOOOOONG time. In fact, it was basically written out even before I got pregnant again. Then I forgot about it. Then I remembered it. And I read it over and had to add and edit about a million more things. I still don't know if it is really ready or not. I have a lot of feelings about Bug's birth that have been ruminating in my mind for a long time (like...two years). If I were to keep adding to this post, until I felt it was truly complete, I would probably have a whole book! Therefore, I will go ahead and let this post be. There will definitely be some sort of follow up after the new baby makes his/her arrival! Birth on my mind:
I always have pregnancy and birth on my mind. It is my passion. I read about it all time time. I dream about it all the time. I think a lot about how I can make my own experiences with pregnancy and birth better. Of course, that means I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want this pregnancy and birth to be like. And I think a lot about what was wrong with Bug's birth. The more I think about Bug's birth, the more I realize that I -need- to write it all out. Not just a birth story, I have one of those. But, I need to write out my true feelings, more specifically, what I didn't like and why. Perhaps I feel like it will be a therapy session. This isn't just for me to complain (although I do love to complain!) I like to think that I can help other women who want better birth experiences (or maybe haven't had any yet, and have no idea what they could have). So, here is my list of things I did NOT like about pregnancy/birth with Bug, why I didn't like it, and then my preferences for a better pregnancy and birth -including what I'm doing for my current pregnancy/plans for this birth. (these are in no particular order):
-Seeing an OB. I wish that I had either gotten a midwife to take care of my prenatals, or gone with an unassisted pregnancy (UP) and done everything myself. I think I was unsure about what choices I could make, and I felt pressured by our society, and those around me, to see an obstetrician. It is such a normal thing today to have an OB attend you throughout pregnancy. But, as soon as I put my trust in an OB, I forgot to trust myself and my own capabilities. Even though I wanted and hoped to have an unassisted childbirth (UC), I continued going to my prenatals with the OB, and in the end, that is why I gave birth in a hospital.
-Caved to subtle threats from the medical field. A week after I started prodromal labor (but still waiting for the baby to be born), I went in for another prenatal checkup. They heard an irregular heartbeat, and sent me in for all kinds of testing. Eventually, they advised me to be induced. I was vulnerable, because I was a woman getting ready to have a baby anyway (my body was already preparing: I had lost my mucous plug and was having on and off bouts of contractions). They effectively scared me into thinking that my baby's life was in immediate danger. As I laid on a hospital bed, in a hospital gown, crying, I honestly didn't think I had a choice. I wish I could have gone back home to contemplate the situation. I could have returned shortly after if I really felt like I needed to be induced. I could have studied, and subsequently found out, that abnormal heartbeats really aren't uncommon and are typically nothing to worry about. I could have prayed with my husband for personal revelation on what to do in the situation. But, I didn't do any of that. It's hard to do any of that in a busy hospital, where people are checking on you every couple of minutes, asking if you have made a decision, when you clearly know what decision they want you to make. I quietly accepted the invitation to be induced.
-Given a hep lock for an IV. It is ridiculous that mothers in labor at a hospital are rarely allowed to eat and drink when and what they want. It is such an out dated practice, but it is still being practiced! Instead, they keep you hooked up to an IV to keep you hydrated. Or, if you are lucky, you just get a hep lock, so they can hook you up to the IV later. It is mandatory in many hospitals, especially in my area. Why? So they can hook you up to drugs quickly if there is a problem. They see it as a preventative measure. I see it as an unnecessary hindrance. Hospitals are supposed to be there to help quickly -if- a problem comes up...not get you hooked up in advance for -when- a problem comes up. Plus, is there anything comfortable and relaxing about having a plastic tube stuck in your vein? No, I think not. I was constantly worried about the foot of tubing wadded up and taped to my arm. I didn't want to pull it the wrong way, because that hurts! In the end, I wasn't hooked up to the IV...but it wasn't fun laboring with a hep lock in my arm.
-Allowed artificial rupture of my membranes (AROM). AROM definitely is one way to get labor going, especially if the woman's body has already been preparing for labor. However, it can introduce infection. It could have resulted in a cord prolapse (a serious condition, resulting in a c-section). And, it is artificial. What if Bug wasn't ready to come that day? Getting labor started when he wasn't ready could have caused distress for him. AROM also put a time limit on me. If you haven't delivered within twelve hours of your water breaking (or being broken), most hospitals will take drastic measures to get your baby out (i.e., cesarean section). When my OB broke my water, I was not informed of the risks. That makes me angry to think that there are other women out there that are less educated about childbirth than I am, and their OBs are preforming these procedures on them, without telling them anything about what they are doing, and the women believe it is needed, because their OB said they needed it. And for a moment, I was one of those women.
-Allowed an internal fetal monitor. The internal monitor was the whole reason I had my membranes ruptured (besides the fact that the AROM was also to get my labor going, after all, it was medically advised for me to deliver. And I guess I would rather go into labor from AROM than Pitocin). An external monitor wasn't being very helpful in hearing Bug's irregular heartbeat. This was the main thing they wanted to watch. To a mother in labor, how could I have refused? But, getting an internal fetal monitor is risky business, indeed. That one little intervention makes it incredibly more likely that you will end up with a c-section. Once the monitor was in place, I had to stay laying in bed. I was hooked up to a machine, and I could only unplug it to go pee...although I had to go pee with wires hanging out of my crotch. And just to add a little insult to injury (or should I say add a little injury to the insult), the internal monitor's electrode is screwed into a baby's head. Bug had a scab on his little noggin' for several days after he was born because of the monitor.
-Forced to labor in a supine position. Because I was hooked up the internal monitor, I wasn't able to move around. I was able to unhook to go pee every now and then...but if I wasn't hooked up for a couple minutes, a nurse would come in to "make sure everything was ok". So, I spent the time laboring in bed. I rolled from side to side, trying to get comfortable enough to deal with my contractions. And I moaned and vocalized. I probably could have knelt on the bed or stood beside the bed...but nobody told me that I was allowed to. And I was afraid that I would get into trouble by doing stuff. (Can you tell I had zero confidence while I was surrounded by people who were more "in charge" of my labor than I was!?!)
-Legs placed in stirrups, combined with semi-sitting, kind-of-laying position for the pushing phase. I had no idea that I could have knelt down on the bed to give birth to Bug. Nobody at the hospital told me I could. And once I was in the hospital, I felt like I couldn't do anything unless the hospital personnel told me I could do it. (And, even if I tried, my OB may not have allowed it.) So, when it came time to push, they "broke down the bed", aka they removed the lower half of the bed, put up the stirrups and put my legs in them. Being on your back, or mostly on your back, is probably the worst way to push a baby out. And the best way for an OB to watch while you push a baby out. It makes the mom work harder, and it just might cause more tears.
-Directed and strongly encouraged pushing. This was one of those things that I paid a little less attention to while I was pushing. I have a memory of the nurse on one side, telling me that -now- would be a good time push, and my mom on the other side, asking me to push if I -could-. (Moms are much more sensitive to their laboring daughters than nurses! Although, my nurse was really nice, she was obviously trained in hospital birth.) I would push when a contraction came on, then I would get worn out and stop for a bit. When I stopped, the nurse told me to keep going. I told her that I needed to take a break!! It had been about 12 hours since I had had a meal, or even anything to drink. I was exhausted, and I honestly wasn't sure I could push as often or as strong as the nurse wanted me to. I tried to push when I felt like it, and only then. But, I felt like I was failing or not doing a good job, because the nurse kept telling me to push...even when I felt like I couldn't.
-Immediate cord clamping/cutting. Bug had an irregular heartbeat. That was why the doctor wanted me to deliver. And that is why there was a neonatologist there for when Bug was born, ready to whisk him off for testing. And that is why, against my expressed wishes, Bug's cord was immediately clamped and cut after delivery. And, sadly, I didn't really get to see the placenta, either. That connection that my baby had with me throughout my pregnancy was gone in an instant.
-Baby taken away for tests. Right after Bug was born, they put him on my chest. But it was only for a few minutes, before they took him away for testing. And the OB stitched two of my three small tears. That whole after birth phase is a cloudy memory to me. I don't remember how long Bug was away from me. All I know, is that I got to hold him for a minute, then he was gone for a while. And the next time I saw him, he was bundled up in a blanket. I didn't really get to cherish that skin-to-skin after birth moment that I long for. And I definitely didn't get the opportunity to see if Bug would make his own way to my nipple to nurse.
-Lost autonomy. As illustrated in almost all of the above, I had little to no confidence to do what I wanted to do in a hospital birth. There were rules and regulations and people who were important and in charge. I was just a patient there. I was supposed to be good. I was supposed to be compliant. I was supposed to be easy to take care of. I was nervous and excited. It was my first child. I had never done anything like birth before! I had studied and I knew A LOT about birth. I knew I wanted to follow my own intuition. But I couldn't. As soon as I was told to head to the hospital for a biophysical profile, I felt my confidence draining. It drained more as I was told to put on a hospital gown. And even more as I was send for an ultrasound...in a wheelchair. And once I was told that it was "medically indicated" that I deliver, I knew my intuition was NOT invited to this hospital birth. It wasn't even until hours later that I realized I didn't have -anything- with me, other than my purse. (In fact, my husband ran home after Bug was born to go get clothes and other stuff that would have been there with me, if I had a hospital bag packed.) I was completely and totally at the mercy of the hospital. The policies. The regulations. And even though Bug's birth was amazing (as I imagine any kind of birth would be), it was not what I wanted.
So, how can I change this? How can I help myself have a better experience with birth? The first thing I did was put my foot down and NOT schedule an appointment with an obstetrician. The hubs wasn't comfortable with the idea of doing an unassisted pregnancy/birth with this baby. And he is part of my team, so I had to compromise. It took a lot of work, but I finally got in contact with several midwives. The homebirth community in Ohio is almost like a secret society. You have to know where to go to get the information that you need. I didn't have that information when I was pregnant with Bug. Or, I didn't know how to -find- that information. This time, I worked harder. I found midwives, and I interviewed midwives. And I decided on a midwife that I believe is a good fit for me (the hubby even picked her before I did).
My midwife is ok with my requests. This includes: no vaginal exams, no ultrasound technology (including a doppler), letting me do my own urinalysis, visits in my own home, no routine tests or procedures. Basically, when I ask my midwife if I am ok to do something, she says, "Sure, why not? It's your choice/your body!" If I ask my midwife if I need to -not- do something, she says, "Why? If you want to do it, do it. If you think you shouldn't, don't." My midwife is not flippant. She just thinks that pregnancy and birth are normal, and you shouldn't have to alter your life for them (as long as you are healthy, and not participating in harmful activities). She also thinks that I should be making all my own decisions. She is just there to observe and let me know if something is going wrong (and I don't catch it before on my own). It's exactly the kind of care that I want (assuming that I actually have care from someone other than myself).
It has been nice to just go throughout my pregnancy like I'm living normally. I never have to worry about getting to an appointment (because my midwife comes to me, and I'm always home with Bug during the day anyway). I never have to worry about doing something that I'm not supposed to do, or making sure I do something that I am supposed to do (according to an OB). I just do things that make me feel more comfortable. I eat well. I rest a lot. I take care of my toddler. I feel the baby moving within me and I smile and get emotional about another baby coming to our family. It's been a beautiful pregnancy so far. Very relaxed. It feels good. It feels right.
I want the birth of this next baby to be more ceremonial, and less....protocol. I want to be the one to call the shots. And, I even want to be the one to catch the baby (assuming I'm in a position to do so) and my husband is ok with that! (Yipee!) I'm not typically a conformist. And I think after Bug's birth, I have become even less so. I am stubborn and confident. I think that is why I had such a hard time with Bug's birth, feeling that that part of me was taken away...or that I really don't have those traits. But, I know what I want, and I have learned enough to now get what I want.
I can't wait until the baby is born. Then I will write a follow up post on how this birth went. In the meantime, I'm interested in how my readers have experienced their pregnancies/births. Did things go the way you wanted them to? Did you wish you could change things? What would you want to do differently?