Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Birth Highs

Did you have a Birth High? I did. It was the most amazing feeling. I remember thinking, "If I could do that, I can do anything!" Scientists tell me that's oxytocin rushing through my veins. If that's what it was, hook me up for some more! (Though, only the natural stuff please, Pitocin certainly didn't make me feel this way.)

I've been watching a lot of documentaries on Netflix recently, the latest of which have been The Business of Being Born and Pregnant in America. Both movies deal with the medical communities growing disregard for the exerience of birth and their emphasis on convenience. I highly recommend that everyone watch these, but I feel they'll have special meaning to expectant and current mothers. I know that they only solidified my resolve to have only natural births, but they've gotten me to thinking about births in general and how much do we really know?

In asking several of my friends, acquaintences, and family, I was horrified to learn that many of these people considered a Natural Birth to be a vaginal birth, with or without the use of drugs. They thought there's only two kinds: Natural or Cesarean. It made me sad to think that they didn't join in my joy of having a Natural (Unmedicated) Birth! No wonder they all just sort of said, "Yeah, and?"

Now, I'll be honest with you guys. I was pretty naive going into my pregnancy with Benjamin. I never considered a midwife, and I actually didn't think midwives practiced anymore in this day and age. I knew that I didn't want an epidural, but it was mostly because my mother had birthed all 4 of her children without one (so I could too) and not because of the potential risks. I didn't research doctors, I just went to the OB that I had my annual gynological appointments with. I didn't research hospitals (or birth centers for that matter), I just chose the one that was closest to my home. I did absolutely no research on possible complications or drugs used in "aiding" labor. My eyes glazed over in the birth class when they went over these things because "I had an uncomplicated pregnancy, why would I have a complicated labor?"

My OB didn't educate me on anything unless I asked about a particular subject. But how was I supposed to know what to ask if I didn't know my options?! I just went with the flow. I learned the hospital I chose had Doulas available for birthing mothers and after meeting the group of them, I knew that I wanted one of them to be with me, though if the hospital had not made it such an affordable option, I probably would have gone without.

Benjamin's labor was full of interventions, even though it started spontaneously. Around noon of the day he was born (10 hours of active labor at that point), my OB came in and wanted to start Pitocin. When I asked why, he said, "You're not progressing fast enough." I should have asked why I had a deadline (my waters had not broken yet), but I have a better understanding now that he wanted it all done before he was off shift for the day. When I refused, he told me that he'd give me 2 hours but then he had to start it. Again, why did he have to? Baby was in no danger. But, I had only progressed one centimeter and wasn't to the pushing stage that apparently my OB was after, so he started the Pitocin. Not long after that, I thought I was going to die, so I got the epidural. Then they had to up the pitocin because my labor slowed down. And then my doctor was done for the day and came to say he'd see me tomorrow, "hopefully with a baby." By the time I was ready to push, I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn't feel a damned thing wtih that epidural. But both my and baby's heartrate were dropping so I was told I had to get that baby out fast. I ended up with a 4th degree tear that took 9 weeks to heal because I pushed him out so fast he didn't have time to turn his body.

Because of my experience in Benjamin's labor, I was so much more prepared for Miriam's birth. I "reserved" the same doula that was there for Benjamin's birth. She was awesome. I wrote a detailed (super detailed) birth plan and hand delivered it to the birth center (they lost the one from Benjamin's birth when I had mailed it in). I was prepared to say No Way to any and all drugs pushed at me. Whenever threatened "Baby's in danger" at me, I was going to ask what exactly would happen if I waited 30 minutes to make a decision. I was not going to let someone strong-arm me into what they wanted to do. I was more comfortable for her birth. I moaned, as loudly as I wanted, without caring who heard me. I only had Chris and the doula in my room, and I declined all vaginal checks from the nurses. I never felt like I was going to die of pain in her labor. I won't lie, I got really really uncomfortable, but the pain felt like it was doing something progressive and positive. Sooner than I was ready for, Miriam was crowning. I do remember yelling at one of the nurses when she told me to push. I wanted to do this on my own. I wanted Miriam to come on her own, slowly, and safely. I delivered Miriam without a doctor present. A wonderful, and surprised, nurse caught her. Then, in rushed the doctor, arms flailing about that no one called to tell him I was close, and "what if she needed Pitocin" and "what if there was something wrong with the baby". I shrug at it. I was in a hospital afterall. There were 16 doctors present on the grounds, plus another 32 doctors on call if something did go wrong. I would have said no to the pitocin anyway, so I didn't care.

Miriam's birth empowered me. I wish that all women could have such empowering births. I wish that the birthing system in the United States educated women more on their choices of birth than on their choices of birth control. I didn't care for my experiences with doctors, though I loved the caring hands of my doula and the quiet support of my husband. From here on out, any babies being born in my family won't be happening with a doctor. All I felt was love for me, for my husband, for my children through the entire labor, and I don't want it taken away by the presence of anyone else.

I'm still on my Birth High and it empowers me to be a great mother. What did your birth do for you?