Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Birth in America

My poem about my water birth with Zoodle received this comment from Kristen:

"You know--I never thought you for a 'waterbirth type'. That's awesome though!"

Actually, I had two very different birth experiences. I was induced at 40 weeks with Chickie. When the combination of pitocin and artifical rupture of membranes resulted in sudden, very painful contractions, I had an epidural. It worked well, and I had a joyful birth without much pain.

With Zoodle, my prenatal care and the birth were at a midwife-staffed out-of-hospital birthing center. I took Bradley childbirth courses. Zoodle was born in the warm water of a birthing tub, and there was a lot of pain--but less than there would have been if I hadn't had a skilled doula and that soothing water. It was an amazing, joyful, satisfying experience.

Both labors were short--just under 5 hours for my induced labor with Chickie, and just over 5 hours for my labor with Zoodle. Both births were beautiful and meaningful. Both babies were wonderfully healthy. My recovery was okay with both.

So I don't think that medicated, hospital births are evil. I was, however, deeply affected by my unmedicated experience, and by the environment in which I gave birth that second time. Here are some of my thoughts about birth in 21st-century America, based on my experiences.

I don't think that women who choose medicated births, or women who need C-Sections, should be made to feel that they are somehow less worthy than those who go the medicated route. One of the reasons I thought I could get through an unmedicated birth was because I knew my labor had been so short the first time and probably would be the second time too. Who's to say how I would have reacted to a long, extra-hard labor? Every birth is different, and every mother is different too. All I truly know is my experience.

We shouldn't do away with obstetricians and hospital maternity wards. There are plenty of instances in which C-Sections save the lives of women and babies. Also, with my first pregnancy, knowing I had pain relief available helped me get past my fear of childbirth. But women who have low-risk pregnancies should have safe, out-of-hospital options available.

I wish that our society treated birth as a more natural process, as something that doesn't need to be feared. We'd need fewer medical interventions if that was the case. And we could rest easy, knowing that when the interventions were truly necessary, they'd be readily available, either at the hospital where the birth takes place, or nearby for mothers who labor at home or at a birthing center.

I think women should be treated more as mothers and less as patients after giving birth, as long as Mommy and Baby are both healthy. One of the most meaningful parts of my experience two years ago was the environment created by the birthing center staff. We stayed there about seven hours after the birth. The midwife and assistant did all the important medical stuff (taking vitals, weighing Zoodle, helping with breastfeeding, etc.), but I got the feeling that their top priority was to help me, The Engineer, and Zoodle to bond. We were encouraged to all lay in bed together to rest. It was quiet, serene, and peaceful. It was entirely different than a hospital environment, and those hours were a priceless time at the beginning of my relationship with my son. How I wish more hospitals could create that type of environment for families that have just added a tiny new member!

Whether there's an epidural or not, whether the baby is pushed out by the mom or pulled out through an incision, every birth is beautiful and life-changing. When mothers believe that, fear can start to fall by the wayside. When care providers remember that, they can help create an experience that feels truly miraculous.


Unknown said...

Well said!

Tia said...

I agree! I don't know if you know this, but I am a certified doula. I have all the training, but am not really "practicing" right now because it is so time consuming and I am unwilling to miss things with Ellie. When she is older though, that if fully what I intend to do...

Unknown said...

You are so right. Glad to have inspired a post too lol. I had 3 cesarean sections. Looking back...I gave up on having a "natural" birth experience. With our first I was determined to do things without drugs. I was DEVASTATED when (2 weeks overdue and having somehow turned around) my baby was breech-and I was coming in the next day for a c-section. Those feelings took some time to get over. With our second I studied the Bradley method and wanted to do that if I was able, but I knew sometimes a VBAC just wasn't possible. He was 1 week overdue and breech as well. With our last...I was scared of uterine rupture (having had 2 prior cesareans) and I had a cesarean 1 week prior to her due date. She was actually in position lol...but they didn't want me to begin the birthing process-not knowing how much my "uterus would take" lol. Your last paragraph is so true, and words for all preggos to remember. ;-)

Dan & Hillary said...

Like you've mentioned in previous posts, as mothers, we compete and compare in every relm, including childbirth. I loved both my births and if women want to ask about my experience, I'll share with them, otherwise I stay quiet on this front. I've felt bad for women who have had c-sections and feel like they've missed out on something. It's not how the baby came into the world... it's the next 18+ years that make the woman a mother:-) I wanted a water birth but our hospital won't do them. I've seen some on "A Baby Story" though.

PS- you need a 'spring-y' blog background now;-)

Eternal Lizdom said...

Another blog I read had a post recently about the blogger's sister- she strongly feels that women who don't birth vaginally and naturally haven't truly birthed. It was hurtful to read but I wasn't new to that opinion- I've seen it and heard it before.

I pointed out my story and was very happy that the blogger came back the next day with her opinion and pointed out that birth happens in all different kinds of ways and so on.

I considered natural childbirth VERY seriously. But one thing I talked to my OB about at length was my history of childhood sexual abuse. I was very concerned that the pain of childbirth would revive the old flashbacks I used to have and I didn't want anything marring my birthing experience. I went with an epidural both times for that reason. I held in through the contractions as long as I could and got my epidurals as late in the process as I could.

And no one can make me feel guilty for it!

Every birth experience is real and unique and special and intimate. I can't be so judgemental as to think that I could possibly ever declare that someone is less of a mother because they scheduled a c-section.

Anyway- all that just to say- I AGREE!

Megan Fletcher said...

I always enjoy hearing you relive your birthing experiences. It makes me so happy for you.

I wanted to have a "natural" birth with my first, but ended up having an epidural after many hours of induced labor. It was the relief I needed so I could relax b/c she came just moments later.

The second time I had twins. I was induced and had to get an epidural because one kiddo was breech. After several hours of labor I had to have a c-section quickly since the breech baby's water had been broken and she was crowning with her hiney.

I still would love to have a "natural" childbirth, but I have no idea if that would be a viable option if we ever had another baby, given my history.

I remember one of my doctors commenting when I kept talking of a "natural" birth. He said "The true opposite of a "natural" birth would be for the baby to stay inside."

Mellodee said...

Well said! You are such a rational woman, that's one of the things I like best about you!

SurvivorBlessing said...

I love the post! And I love your opinions on it. Every birth experience is very different and unique! And I am glad for you that both yours worked out like that.

With Coqui, I wanted to do it naturally, but because there was meconium in the water, they gave me 24 hours to deliver. I was in mild labor for over 12 hours, and got scared of having to have a C-section. So I thought an epidural will accelerate things. I got it and, for me, it did opposite to most people, it slowed things down almost completely. In my 22nd hour, the heart beat got low and I ended up with a C-section any way. Something I had tried to avoid all along! It was sooooooo (!) disappointing. It took me months to get over it... and sometimes I am still mad about it.

Though I have to say that the scar from the C-section saved me with my hysterectomy - they cut along the old incision - otherwise they would have cut me top to bottom. So I guess it had one 'good' point.