Thursday, July 15, 2010

Birth on my mind

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 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?


Veronica said...

I just finished writing my birth story for Cal. It didn't go how I thought it would go, but really all I wanted out of my birth experiance was to have a happy healthy baby. That is what I got. I did wish I could eat something during the labor, I was not very excited about that part, but overall, it was something very trival to me in the long run. I did a lot of research and found for me, having a baby no matter how he came was spiritual for me. I wanted him in a hospital, with a doctor, with drugs, and I was okay with that. I am okay with conforming. Having my baby was the hardest, but best experiance for me and for my husband, we grew so much in those hours together. That is what i wanted!

For you, however I see how my birth would be a nightmare for you, and you would not be happy with how things worked themselves out. I hope with this next baby you get the cerimonial birth you want, and you get to feel the empowerment of having a baby the way you want to have him/her. I am glad you found a midwife you feel comfortable. i am anxious to hear your birth story, I admire you for not going to a doctor, and wanting to have your baby at home. I love hearing birth stories... and I am excited to see if you have another boy, or if you get a girl!!!!

by the way do you "feel" like it is one or the other? I knew I was having a boy, I was just curious if you felt stronger towards one or the other.

Melinda said...

I really agree with you on so much of this, there were a ton of things you were unhappy with that I felt very similar to. Especially this last pregnancy/birth, I had a very hard time with my OB. IF I have another baby I will definitely be doing things differently. My OB was a member of the church and I had my first with him, I don't know what changed but we were NOT on the same page. He basically bullied me into doing what he wanted, by saying "don't you want to do whats best for your baby?!" Like I'm some sort of horrible mother and don't care about my child. It was awful and he was horrible. I agree with the hospital too, there is no asking you anything, they just do and you must comply. Ugh.

Have you read "hypnobirthing"? I love it, and really felt like it helped me prepare and see birth in a different light, it was awesome. I hope you get what you want out of this next birth, I'll be thinking of you! (Now you've made me want to right a similar post! haha)

Mallory said...

@Veronica: I'm a little hesitant to say what I -feel- this baby is, because I would hate for my mother's intuition to be wrong! :D But, at the same time, I feel it is a girl! Here's hopin'! (And, I'll love another boy just the same, of course!) It's driving me a little bit crazy not knowing!

@Melinda: I have read (and even own) Hypnobirthing. I actually read it when a friend of mine was pregnant, and it was the method she was planning on utilizing for her birth. It was good, but my favorite birth preparation book (of the ones I have read) is Birthing From Within. It's more hippie/earthy/artsy, IMO, and that totally plays on my personality type more!

TopHat said...

I want to have less people there. I had my husband and a friend- and this time I want either just my husband or to have a solo birth. I also want to remember to eat more often in my labor. And I'm hoping it'll be shorter this time around!

Heatherlady said...

What a great post. I think it helps so many women to realize they have choices in birth. Not everyone will give birth the same way but what a difference it makes to feel like you are the one in charge of your body and that you CHOSE what happened to rather than HAD it happen to you. I'm excited to hear how this birth goes and what a beautiful transformation you've gone through. Keep sharing your story. There are women out there who need to hear it!

Sara, Nick, and kids said...

i think you should keep going and write a book!!!
well you asked for birth stories... i hesitate to tell you mine because i don't want you to feel like i am trying to persuade you in another direction because i'm definately not... so if you don't want to approve this comment to be published i won't be offended :)
my first pregnancy i was 17, and very thin, obviously young. took pregnancy birthing classes and everything (it was actually required being pregnant in highschool) well the baby ended up getting stuck. pushing and pushing... no matter what the baby was not going to come out. i had not planned on a c-section so i kinda zoned out in classes about it and i knew for sure i would never need to know it. well obviously with the baby so stuck i ended up having to have a c-section. the baby wouldn't have made it otherwise. i had no way to know before hand. no way to plan for it, and i definately didn't want it! but in my case i am grateful that i had such a great doctor for trying everything to get out of doing a c-section. but when my 8 pounds 1 ounce baby came out with the worst cone head i have ever seen i knew we did the right thing.
my mother in law with her 9th baby- her midwife actually stuck her tiny hands in- sue compt at 7 hills, tiny lady- and pulled the baby out when it was so stuck like that! holy cow! wouldn't have worked in my case though. with my next pregnancy since they knew to look for it we found out that the measurements ar just too small. even though i am much bigger girl now(older too but bigger) it is the bones and stuff that are too small or close together or whatever you wanna call it. who knew??

The Bakers said...

With my birth I had to have a semi emergency C-section. I had been in labor at a 6 for 15 hours and had not progressed. They finally decided to do a c-section. I wished that I would have not had so many people around when I was laying in the hospital waiting and contracting. I wanted it to be just me and my husband. I wanted to just experience it with my husband.... But it ended up with my mom sneaking in and my sister and my husbands sister. So after having the c-section and finally getting to go back to my room I had "competition" to hold my own baby! And I was angry (but could not show it) that so many people knew what I wanted (to be alone with my husband and baby) but totally didn't care. And I did not want to upset anyone..... It was so hard but I am glad you wrote this blog because I get to express my deep thoughts about how my birth went and the things I would have liked to have gone differently... Thank you.

Joanna said...

I think everyone's birth stories are different, some bad and some good. Unfortunately you felt like you had no say. Honestly, I think the doctors and nurses were just taking precautions with your son, they didn't want anything to happen to him, or you. I would rather them take precautions instead of me delivering and something seriously happen to me or my baby. In my family usually hospital births are a must. Two of the four girls in my family have abnormally large children and need help pushing them out, if we were to push them out at home we wouldn't survive. Then another sister has babies that come too early sometimes and need assistance at the hospital, the other has an insufficient cervix who could NEVER do anything that you believe in doing. We also have an uncle who is an OBGYN and a fertility specialist who has often times given us advice or helped us in ways a midwife could never do. I am very grateful that we do have doctors and nurses. Although I am not opposed to midwives I believe that everyone has there own choice of how they want to birth a child and because we all have a choice none of these choices are wrong. My doctor told me once, there are so many women out there who plan their births up to the last detail, and most of these births never go as planned, and so the women are then disappointed and sad with how the births go. She told me to let nature run its course, let your body do what its supposed to do. Plan what you are going to do doctor wise, hospital wise, then after that let your body do what it is supposed to do. Every birth I have had, I have always had a choice. No doctor or nurse ever did anything without asking me, all the way up to the nurse who even asked to help me push my baby out, when I said yes, she proceeded to jump on top of me all the while helping me push my 10 pound baby out.
I hope your birth goes better this time. I think it will. Just know though, that every hospital birth isn't a bad one. If you want to know the details of both of mine, I will tell you, you will be pleasantly surprised.