Monday, February 26, 2007

Warning: Lots of Rambling About Birth

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?


Mommy Daisy said...

It's funny that I have some very similar feelings to you. Actually, I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Mostly because my "baby" will be a year old on Saturday, so I've been reliving what it was like this time last year. I tried not to think about the birth part itself too much. But I did have a "birth plan" that I discussed with my OB. I did not want any pain meds or epidural either, but my doctor thought I was crazy (I have to let you know that I did LOVE my doctor). I was shocked that he asked why I didn't want an epidural. I just thought I could do it without, and I wanted to try to as much as I could. I was going to opt for other drugs (like you ended up with). But my OB said he'd really recommend the epidural over other his opinion it was way safer. So, I went in knowing it was an option, but I didn't want anyone to ask me about it. And they didn't. And I did get an epidural after 5 hours of induced labor. The nurses told me I should teach a class on pain management, they thought it was unbelieveable that I did that well. Anyway, watch my blog for Zachariah's birth story. I've been wanting to write it. I think it would be a great time since he's turning one. I will work on it and hopefully have it posted this week or next.

desperate housewife said...

Your doctor's comment about thinking the epidural was preferable to other drugs is now my thought, too. If I do opt for pain relief this time, I will definitely just do the epidural and not mess with iv drugs- they made me feel very disoriented, and didn't really help all that much with the actual pain as far as I could tell. It just made me feel spacy, like I was floating. In a big sea of PAIN! :)

Lisa said...

Well, I had an epidural each time I gave bith and it was simply because I know how I deal with pain and didn't want to make those decisions when I was in labor. I couldn't have asked for a better birth experience with any of my kids. Well, maybe the last one when I delivered with a broken leg. I could have done without that. I found the comfort in knowing all the people participating in the labor/delivery process were well trained and there to assist if something were to go wrong.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

Anonymous said...

I went in trying to remember that no matter what I had in mind for a plan, that I had very limited control over what was going to happen. I always knew I would be open to an epidural if the pain was too much (it was), but when the possibility of a c-section came about, I really had to fight getting upset because that was not how I wished it to happen. In the end I avoided a c-section, but I think it is very difficult not to set your expectations on some level. I believe you have to be willing to trust in your doctor (or midwife or whoever) and know that you aren't in charge of your body as much as your baby is.

Swistle said...

"I lied to make it be true"--so, so funny, and I can so identify. And then the POSER follow-up was great.

I've had all c-sections. The first one was after 27 hours of labor, and it was a huge relief ("someone is going to make this STOP and be OVER"), followed later by a feeling like maybe I'd eloped when I should have had a big wedding.

Then I got pregnant again, and found I was really glad that I had to have c-sections and didn't have to worry about it or think about it. I've continued to feel that way MOSTLY, but I do still cherish an image of the doctors and nurses standing around admiring my beautiful, silent, strong, efficient labor and delivery. Or of delivering in my living room, then driving myself and the baby to the hospital where everyone would marvel at me and perhaps put my picture in the newspaper.

I totally know what you mean about too many options and opinions and possibilities. It WAS a relief, after my first c-section, when the OB came into my recovery room and said, "I'm afraid you will have to have c-sections from now on." I do find it easier to be able to shrug and think that no matter what I might PREFER, I can relax and go with what is not a choice, and say that I feel lucky to be alive now, and not 200 years ago when I would have died in childbirth. On the other hand, part of this is POSING.

desperate housewife said...

Swistle: The "eloped when you should have had a big wedding" comment was a hilarious, and actually a very accurate description, I would think, of how I would feel if I ended up with a c-section. If I had been in labor for 27 hours, I would have wanted it to stop by any means possible, too, but then maybe felt a little disappointed or cheated or something afterwards.
I felt like I was nearing that point, where I would sell my soul to anyone who could make it STOP, after 8 hours, even though everyone who was there (both our moms, my sister in law) always tells me I had such a smooth, easy birth. I think they thought that because I wasn't making that much noise, I was handling the pain well. The fact is, I'm just not a big crier, but I was totally overwhelmed with the intensity of contractions- if they had seen my face, they might have realized I was completely unprepared for this level of pain!
Okay, I just realized this was practically another post in itself. Sorry!

Musings of a Mom said...

I wouldn't say you had an easy birth, just that you seemed to handle everything well! The fact that you let us into the delivery room just totally blows my mind (that takes a strong woman, and I wasn't up to the job myself) and thank you so much for letting me be a part of it.

I remember hating the whole hospital part of birth, but needing the security of having the doctors there, and absolutely loving the nurses who actually cared what I thought (one didn't). With my second, I was so dreading going to the hospital that I waited at home until the last possible minute (after two days of not so bad contractions) which in retrospect was a bad decision because I ended up putting my baby at risk. I had some type of bacteria and/or virus thing that required me to have an antibiotic 4 hours before birth, and since I didn't get to the hospital until 45 minutes before birth, well, I got lectured for that and had to stay in the hospital with baby after birth a bit longer. In my defense, my dr. didn't tell me about the 4 hours before detail.

It was very nice to get to the hospital and start pushing immediately though, I must say. And it was funny to watch the nurse who said "oh, I'm sure you have lots of time, honey" check my cervix and then run and get the dr. and see everyone start running around kind of frantically.

Thankfully, God had mercy on me the third time and decided to take the hospital decision making out of my hands by breaking my water 3 weeks before my due date, before any contractions started, so I had to get to the hospital in plenty of time.

I think philosophically what I learned from three different experiences is that it's about the baby most of all, and any way that you and the nurse and the dr. and the midwife and your hubby/family/friends can get the baby out of there so he's as healthy as possible, is a miracle. Drugs, no drugs, c-section, natural, water birth or no, if the end result is a baby who actually grew in your belly, then WOW.

desperate housewife said...

Very true. It's always "wow" no matter how it happens! Also, I would say that having you guys there helped me, even though I don't think I even said more than a few words to any of you until after the baby came! Because, when something that intense is going on in your body, it's easy to get all inside your head and that can make it worse. Knowing that you and Mom and your mom were there, even though I couldn't even see you most of the time, made it seem more like an exciting event that other people were taking part in, too. Does that make sense?