Okay, you all remember the post I wrote a while back about how I am SO over my obsession with having the perfect, euphoric, unmedicated-yet-still-serene birth experience? Well, I lied. I lied to make it be true, but it didn't work. (I suppose I was being a POSER!) My recent dream revealed my still very current preoccupation with how exactly the ideal birth would play out for me. This mental rut is so frustrating that I almost wish, a., a c-section was a medical necessity and I therefore would be freed from any choice in the matter, or b., that we lived in an era when pain meds were not an option and, again, I would not have a choice other than to suck it up!
I believe this overthinking of the subject comes from being almost too educated about birth choices due to my compulsive reading habit, which in my first pregnancy led to my checking out and reading, cover to cover, every single birth book the library offered. These ran the gamut from the ones written by midwives praising the "orgasmic" (hah!) experience of natural, unmedicated childbirth and the resulting endorphine high, to your very traditional ones put out by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which reassure a woman that there is "no failure or shame" in being unable/unwilling to cope with labor pain.
Some books made you feel as though you were giving in to the system and handing over control of your body if you chose to give birth in a hospital, with an iv, laying on your back to push, blah blah blah. It's all a "conspiracy" by the male-dominated medical system to control women and strip away the inherent female power of giving birth. And then there are other authors who make you sense that if you were to seek some sort of homebirth or birthing center experience, you would be selfishly risking the safety of your unborn just so you can maintain a little more dignity and control.
There is really just so much preaching done on this whole subject... It's endless and circular and exhausting. And I know that the baby's the thing, that the birth is only hours (or days, if you're unlucky) of your life, and will not matter so much in the scope of things. On the other hand, if giving birth in a more natural, unmedical setting such as a birthing center, with midwives and doulas instead of nurses and doctors, would actually bring about a hugely powerful, transforming experience, then I don't want to miss out on that. Would I now be a more empowered person if I had given birth in my own nightgown, pushed whenever I felt like it, without sterile drapes and bright lights and flashing steel instruments? If I had felt more in control of the experience, and not vaguely like a spectator at this very formative event in my life?
I will probably never have this answer, because when it comes down to it, I do fear any risk involved for myself or the baby inherent in giving birth away from a hospital setting. This is especially important to me since I gave birth four weeks early last time and am likely to do the same with any following babies, according to the doctor. And in choosing the availability of a special care nursery and respiratory specialists and even an operating room, I am trading quite a bit of control over the birth situation. I know this.
I didn't like having to have an iv and wearing a paper napkin of a nightgown, I didn't enjoy the indignity of having all kinds of people I didn't know parade in and out of my room to check my blood pressure and the state of my cervix. I really hated having my legs in stirrups to push, and I wish there had been a nurse present with me throughout the labor, not just one who stepped in every so often to glance at the contraction readout, glance at my face, and ask, "Did you want something for the pain now?"
But I did enjoy the mental comfort of knowing that there were drugs there if I wanted them. I did feel better knowing there was a crowd of competent nurses to make sure my baby was okay moments after her entrance into the world, at the point when I was still dizzy from blood loss and woozy from shock. I felt better knowing, basically, that these people had all seen and done this lots of times before. I appreciated their cool, detached professionalism as much as I resented it.
What do you all think? What were your birth experiences, and do you have any regrets or wish things had gone differently? Do you think it really matters, in the end?