February 21, 2013

Natural Childbirth: My Story, Part I

And now let's pretend it's December (when I actually began composing this post). Let's say I'm 36 weeks pregnant with my third child, and my head is wrapped around Mammahood and little else. My favorite moment of the day comes late each evening when I lean back on my bed, prop up my feet and lay my hands on my swollen belly to feel my son move. Often, the hands of big sister, big brother, or Daddy join mine, and we revel in the miracle of the tiny life coming to us.

And of course I have the time and energy to blog about it, because, what nine-months preggo woman doesn't? ;-)

The last week of November was difficult. Our birth plans had to change and questions have been raised about my health...more on that some other day...but, because of these trials, I have felt so urgently the need to put into words, here, the story of my birth experiences, and how strongly I believe that the journey of labor and delivery can carry a mother to a place of sacred awareness, empowerment, and bliss that cannot be reached in this life in any other way. The reasons I choose natural childbirth are portrayed and promoted in life-changing books like Childbirth Without Fear and bold documentaries like The Business of Being Born (my favorite!). I passionately recommend both those sources to women everywhere, but my stories can only be told by me.

Almost nine years ago Baby #1, my sweet Laurelei, was on the way. I was so young! I have always known I wanted to be a mother, and I have always known I wanted to bring my children into the world through natural childbirth, the way my mother brought me. Actually, until I was a junior in high school, and went to see a friend in the hospital who was having a baby, I didn't know much about any other way. I remember my older sister telling me I should leave the room because they were going to do something called an 'epidural' and she knows I don't like needles. I left obediently, wondering what on earth needles had to do with giving birth.

A little older and slightly wiser in the ways of the world by the time I became pregnant with my first, I ignorantly thought I knew all there was to know about labor and delivery and my options and rights. There were no birth centers near where we lived, but the hospital was small and personal and, as informed as I thought I was, a home birth really hadn't even crossed my mind. I said 'no' to the epidural, the pitocin, the being induced, and I presented my D.O. with the birth plan Brian and I had worked through together (a quiz torn from the pages of a parenting magazine, the boxes checked with our answers). He nodded and said he understood. And I think he did. But still, on the night my sweet girl was born, things were done to me as a mother and to her as she entered this world that we would have said no to had we known--really known--as much as we thought we knew. It was a hospital, after all. And a hospital has policies that most moms never bother to learn and most docs never bother to disclose because the expectation is blind faith in the 'experts,' and little to no faith in our bodies; in what we, as women, were designed to do.

I have a huge problem with that expectation.

When the night came, I had back labor. I stood and walked the polished, white, hospital floors, leaning on Brian through contractions and letting gravity help us along and the pain was manageable. I could see the purpose in it and Brian could talk me through the worst moments...until I dilated to 5 or 6 centimeters and was told that, according to procedure, it was time for me to lie down.


But we didn't know enough to say 'what?' I thought, she must be coming soon. It must be time. I obediently laid on the bed...and felt the full pain of back labor which, up to that point, my standing position had eased me through. I'm sure I screamed. The nurses began hooking me up to machines. External monitors. Heart monitors. An I.V., and, worst of all, an Internal Fetal Monitor screwed into the top of my helpless daughter's head. I remember thinking, and I remember Brian asking, why? But then my focus returned to the contractions that had suddenly intensified tenfold and Brian's focus returned to me. With all the wires and cords holding me to the bed, and the full weight of baby and womb on my back, there was nothing I could do now to handle the pain. I wanted to stand up again. Someone told me no. I fought through several contractions that way before a nurse suggested a "milligram or so of Stadol. Just to take the edge off." Brian and I didn't know what that was and neither of our heads were really with the nurse anyway. But with the hospital -regulation IV that I never wanted already in place, it was easy to inject the medicine for "the good of the baby" without really waiting for us to say yes.

We had lost control of a situation that was ours--not the nurses' or the doctors' or the hospital's. Ours. And even though I could still feel the labor, I still knew where I was and I could try to find the purpose in the pain,  I felt a little bit lost.

Under the influence of the Stadol, the semi-helpful effects of which didn't last that long, I hallucinated. Between contractions I fell into a half-sleep that terrified me without giving me any real rest. Then, at about 8 or 9 centimeters, the drug began to wear off and they wanted to give me more. This time, I found my voice and said no. They still wouldn't let me off the bed, but I insisted on being propped up. I knew she was coming. I knew that the moment I had waited and prepared for was about to happen and I didn't wait to be told to push. My body and my baby together knew what to do and the doctor barely caught her in time.
There is no physical feeling that can compare to the sensation of a baby leaving the birth canal, and there is no emotional or spiritual experience to be had by man nor beast to envy the infinite wonder and joy of having  completed the journey of labor and birth. At the moment she was placed in my arms, Laurelei, Brian, and I were the only beings on earth.

I kissed the wound on her head and cried, happy tears for the child fresh from eternity in my arms; tears of grief for my ignorance and pain. And I knew, as she nuzzled her tiny mouth to my breast, I would never, ever, lose control of my sacred Mammahood rights again.

Coming Soon: Natural Childbirth: My Story, Part II.

1 comment:

  1. I've always been either bemused or depressed at the irony that I was so fixed on natural childbirth and being upright while giving birth from the beginning, and I was never able to even give birth vaginally at all let alone how I pictured it. Even with four different tries. I did a lot of second guessing and "what if" scenarios (what if I wasn't scared into a c-section the first time, that lead to the added precaution and red tape to all the remaining times) and had lots of regret until I realized that I needed to let go of it. But when something so personal is taken away from you, it hurts. This is a beautifully written post that totally expresses that.