Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why I Am Choosing Natural Childbirth: Part I

I've been debating for a few weeks now if I should even write this post. Why, you ask? Because childbirth is one of those hotly debated topics between EVERYONE; the medical community, veteran mothers who have "been there, done that," new parents, and that random guy waiting at the bus stop. Everyone has an opinion, and someone, somewhere is going to be horribly offended by what I have to say. So, for that reason, let me begin my latest blog entry with a list of disclaimers (brace yourselves, folks). Also, once I started writing I realized that this is one of those topics that will be ridiculously long. In the interest of not boring my readers to death, I'm going to break this subject up into-most likely-three parts.

1. Barring any medical complications, I believe every expectant mother should be able to have the birth that she wants, even if it's not something I would ever want for myself. That may be an epidural the second you walk in the hospital, an elective c-section, a water birth with Enya playing in the background and monks standing in a circle around you waving sticks of incense and chanting. Whatever. Your body, your birth.

2. I have absolutely nothing against epidurals. Hell, I had one with Tony (more on that later).

3. I am not an OBGYN. I am not a midwife. I am not a L&D nurse, and I'm not a doula. All of my opinions/beliefs regarding birth are ones that I have formed over the last couple of years doing extensive research on the subject, as well as talking to many doctors and midwives.

4. By writing this post, I am not attempting to sway anyone towards my beliefs. I'm simply writing about what I believe is best for my body and my baby.

5. Everyone has a different definition of natural childbirth. Many people believe that natural childbirth is a birth without any drugs or medical interventions. Others say a vaginal delivery, even with an epidural, vacuum extractor, or forceps is a natural childbirth. There are also many people who say that there is no "unnatural" form of childbirth. When I say natural childbirth, I am referring to a birth without drugs or medical intervention. Again, this terminology is not meant to offend anyone. It just makes it easier for me to explain myself without writing "drug free, intervention free delivery" in every sentence. :)

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, I will tell you how I first became interested in natural childbirth. I was in my mid-twenties and living in Hanau, Germany on a military base. Will and I had only been married a little over a year, and children were far from our mind. I was working at the education center on the base as an education counselor, and one of my newer co-workers was heavily pregnant with her second baby. She and I were having lunch together one day, and since I didn't know her very well, I just made polite conversation. I asked her when she was due, if she was nervous about the delivery, where she would be having the baby, etc. She became quite vocal about her disappointment regarding the birth of her first baby, and told me that even though she went into labor on her own and was progressing well, the second she arrived at the hospital her doctor began pushing all these interventions on her (Pitocin to "bring her labor up to speed," an epidural even though she was handling the contractions very well, constant fetal monitoring). Long story short, her doctor told her it was absolutely necessary that she should have a c-section. Why, she doesn't know. She and her husband (who is a doctor himself!) were not given a good reason, other than "well it's for the good of the baby." My co-worker tried to get the doctor to elaborate, but she and her husband's concerns were brushed aside, and she was wheeled to the OR. I could see her anger and disappointment while we were talking, especially when she told me that 90% of the deliveries that night had been c-sections! She was especially upset about that, as she felt that her cesarean was unnecessary, and she had a very difficult recovery. She and her son were also separated for several hours after the surgery, and she experienced difficulty breastfeeding him. However, she was very grateful to be delivering her second baby in Germany at a German hospital, where natural births are not only common but encouraged, and doctors and midwives fully support VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean).

A few years later, when Will and I were thinking about starting a family, I started thinking about the birth I would like to have. My good friend Maureen had been through a both a medicated and natural childbirth, and while she said that natural childbirth wasn't exactly a walk in the park, it was an amazing experience and her recovery was so much easier. Unfortunately, many other mothers I spoke to did not have such positive feelings about the births of their babies. Many women spoke of feeling bullied into interventions by pushy doctors or nurses, having their wishes completely brushed aside, and had difficulties after their births, with both recovery and breastfeeding. Once I got pregnant, I immediately began gathering as much information on natural childbirth as I could get my hands on.

I was very fortunate with our location; we had just moved from Germany to Boston, a city that is known for its wonderful hospitals and care providers. I began researching hospitals, birth centers, doctors and midwives in the area, and narrowed my search by finding providers within my insurance network. I found a wonderful OBGYN who had hospital privileges at the exact hospital I was hoping for! She and I got along fabulously, and I never felt that any of my concerns or wishes were dismissed. Will and I went to a "Meet Your OBGYNs" conference at the hospital, where we did kind of a meet and greet with all the doctors who might deliver our baby. It was wonderful; all of the doctors introduced themselves, and pretty much opened up the floor for questions. Everything was asked, from "can you labor in the tub or shower?" (yes) to "is there a lactation consultant on staff?" (yes) to "can I have a hep lock instead of an IV?" (yes). It was SO reassuring to know that we would have our baby at a hospital that was so committed to keeping their intervention rates as low as possible, and had doctors and midwives who acted in the best interests of the mothers and babies.

I would also like to add that many people (myself included, frankly) were surprised when I said I would like to try for a natural childbirth. As a general rule, I'm kind of a baby about pain. I've had migraines for years, and as I'm sure many of you know, migraines kind of make you want to curl up into a ball and die. I had ZERO qualms about taking pain medication for migraines. Hell, when I do something stupid like stub my toe, I'm usually that person who is "WAHHHHH!!!! Quick, get me the Vicodin!" Okay, maybe not Vicodin, but you get the idea. However, I've always felt that there was this separation between the pain of an injury versus the pain of childbirth. Let's face it, childbirth is pretty much the only time where extreme pain/discomfort leads to a good thing. Also, in a weird way I wanted to experience something that women have been going through for thousands upon thousands of years. I firmly believe that our bodies are made to birth babies, and in many parts of the world women deliver babies without drugs because a) there aren't any available and b) they aren't bombarded with the Hollywood fear-factor regarding childbirth, like we are here in America. Have you ever watched A Baby Story? Or 16 and Pregnant? I was TERRIFIED after seeing some of the deliveries on those shows. I knew I needed to get myself into a good mindset, so to speak, so I began investigating childbirth classes.

I wanted to be as prepared as possible for childbirth, so Will and I signed up for the Hypnobirthing class in Brookline. We were one of three couples in the class, which was really kind of nice. I chose Hypnobirthing because as a general rule, I'm a Type A, micro-managing kind of person, and I really felt that I could benefit from the breathing exercises, learning to put my body in a hypnotic state, and cease all tension with the affirmations. I was *slightly* skeptical, because some of the class seemed very hippie dippie to me, but I was willing to give it a try. I downloaded the affirmations on my iPod, and listened to them every night. Before I went to bed, I did my breathing exercises, and learned to relax my body. I read the books suggested by our instructor, and I began doing prenatal yoga to get my body ready for delivery. Now, all I had to do was wait for this baby to arrive! After all, my mom went into labor a day early with both my brother and I, AND she had ridiculously short labors! (Six hours with me, about four hours with Mark). I was sure to follow in her footsteps! HA.

Why I am Choosing Natural Childbirth Part II coming soon (to include Tony's birth story, which I never got around to writing!).  :)

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