Saturday, July 3, 2010
My Best Birth
I delivered Judah 6 weeks ago and I'm still on a high about how everything went down. Every time I cuddle with him I remember the sweet night he was born. I can't image how things couldn't have been more perfect. Maybe I'm insane but all I remember is comfort and joy. I have two children. Their births were completely different. Both ended in the delivery of a healthy baby, but one was filled with utter joy and wonder, while the other was tampered by fear and feeling helpless.
With my first I believed what everyone told me. I watched the baby stories on TLC, saw the "natural" moms screaming their heads off and knew I didn't want that to be me. I received nothing but encouragement from the women at church to get the epidural and end the suffering that labor would inevitably inflict on me. I had never had a baby before. It was all unknown to me. So I simply believed the message, "you can't do this without pain meds", and "labor is the worst pain of your life."
I knew I didn't want a c-section but other than that I was open to interventions. I ended up being induced a week past my due date. And though I would have been happy to do it sooner, the whole experience made me feel helpless. I was at the mercy of the pitocin, the monitors, the clock, and the IV pole tethered to me. I couldn't go to the bathroom without help and once my water broke (9 hours before I had the baby) they wouldn't even let me get out of bed. They actually tried to make me use a bedpan before I got the epidural at 2cm and was catheterized. I felt pretty helpless. I did what they said and didn't question it. They epidural worked great for me and I delivered an 8.5 pound baby vaginally. But it felt unreal. Everything was fine. I was a new mom with a healthy baby.
Two years later and pregnant again, I knew I wanted things different. Maybe it was the fact that I had gone through nursing school, read tons of natural birth stories or discovered this interesting program called hypnobabies... but I was determined to ask questions this time and not just take the status quo. I started practicing Hypnobabies about half way through my pregnancy to prepare for labor. The term "self-hypnosis" turned me off at first but once I realized it was simply teaching your mind and body to completely relax (and it really works) I was on board. I would often fall asleep during the sessions and never was really sure it would work. But I started believing in myself and in my body... that labor was not something to be afraid of, but that my body was created for. To doubt that, was to doubt God's craftsmanship. And if the God wanted me to meditate on anything during pregnancy and labor, it was things that were good and true (certainly not fear or pain). For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind. Hypnobabies, for me, was a tool in which to keep my mind focused and my body relaxed. Instead of fighting the contractions, I welcomed them. And my second child was born- without induction (a day past the due date), water broke naturally, total labor was about about 6 hours, natural and comfortable. I did not act like a wild woman. Got to the hospital at 6cm, laid in bed peacefully, did what I wanted and felt was right (which for me was resting in bed). I never doubted that my baby was safe and coming quickly. Pushing and feeling the pressure (not the horrific pain women always talk about) was exciting and empowering. Come to find out he was 11 pounds blew my mind away.
I don't want to preach natural childbirth here. I use to be a skeptic. I didn't think I could do it. The women who talked about birth and "empowerment" use to sound so cheesy to me. Having a baby is a miracle no matter how you do it. But I know there was a difference between my two birth experiences. Fear doesn't have to be a part of childbirth. And often, when fear is not present neither is pain.
So here are some tips from my experience if you would like to have comfortable, natural birth:
Believe you can do it. Whether you have a high pain tolerance or not, is not the matter, whether you feel insufficient, inadequate or inexperienced... as a woman, God created your body miraculously for this purpose. The majority of women are perfectly capable of delivering babies vaginally.
Train your mind to think positively about childbirth. You may have to stop watching TLC shows or listening to friends horror birth stories. Replace fear with positive affirmations. You may have to write down your fears about labor and work through them. Instead of thinking about all the things that could go wrong- imagine a calm, peaceful delivery and believe you will have that.
Become as knowledgable about labor and delivery as you can be. This is very important. Lack of knowledge causes fear. And as a patient want to be able to understand everything your doctor tells you. Don't be afraid to question. If they say your amniotic fluid is too low, ask what the number is. Do your research. Read a medical text book. A great website to look to is www.evidencebasedbirth.com. Some (not all) doctors make decisions on what's best for them (i.e. trying to save themselves from getting sued) rather than what's particularly best for baby and mom. The majority of c-sections happen around 12pm and 6pm (that's doctor's lunch break and before he goes home from work). You need to be your own advocate. I'm not saying doctor's are your enemy. As a nurse, I work along side them. But you have a right to feel confident about your care. Every patient has a legal right to informed consent. You have the right to ask "why?" You have a right to ask "what are the risks?" You have a right to ask for other options and you have the right to say no.
Prepare for birth! You can't expect to make it very far in a marathon without training first. It's the same with birth. If you don't have a game plan you're probably not going to get very far. With my first, I really didn't know what type of coping strategies I was going to use and it was a flop during labor. My husband's, "just don't think about the pain" method didn't work, taking deep breaths helped until I felt like I couldn't breath anymore. Pitocin's never ending contractions had me begging for an epidural at 2cm. Have a plan and practice. I used Hypnobabies and started practicing around 20 weeks. If you're going to do deep relaxation practice when you feel stressed or every night before bed. When I had heartburn I would actually imagine my throat relaxing and it wouldn't bother me anymore.
Labor at home as long as possible. You will likely be more comfortable in your own environment. Set up pillows. Light candles. Have your husband hold you. Celebrate the fact that your baby is coming soon.
Avoid induction. I know inductions go well for a lot of people (myself included), but increases the risk of cesarean, especially if your body isn't ready. You will probably be hooked up to many monitors making it hard to find a comfortable position. And pitocin contractions are plain ole' nasty... there is hardly a break between them. A fullterm infant is described as one between 38-42 weeks so until your past 42 weeks you're not "postterm" and there's no medical need for induction.
Know that it is ok if things don't go as planned. It may sound contridictory to being in control and making the decisions for your birth experience, but there are simply going to be things you can't control. Some things you can- your care provider, your choice of hospital, pain management options, etc. But if things come up that you didn't plan for, just go with the flow. Just the fact that you stay calm and relaxed is going to make you appreciate and enjoy your birth no matter how it goes down. There were things that happened that originally weren't in my "birth plan." I was GBS positive and had to get an IV with antibiotics during labor. But you know what? I was so calm and focused I really didn't care. And though I request no pitocin during labor I ended up having to get it all night after I deliver to help with my bleeding... and that surprisingly didn't bother me either. I knew it would help me so I was fine with it. To enjoy your labor you may just have to relax make peace with things you can't or shouldn't change.
Mainly, I want women to trust their bodies and trust that God knew what he was doing when he made you. Pregnancy is not a disease to be healed of. It can truly be an amazing experience, though it may get uncomfortable (especially at the end) bringing new life into the world is a miracle. It is an honor to be the vessel through which God brings new life into the world. And if want to do that naturally, don't let anyone tell you you are unable.