May 24, 2013

Natural Childbirth: My Story, Part II

Picking up what I began so many weeks ago, writing what I want my children to know about their own births and the birth journey; what I don't want to forget...

Two years after the birth of Laurelei, I was pregnant with my second child and determined to educate myself and remain in control of our birth this time around. For the first time, I ignored the majority of moms' go-to pregnancy book (you know, that one about expectations) and turned instead to Childbirth Without Fear by Grantley Dick Read.

It was during this pregnancy that I truly began to understand that the advancements of modern-day medicine and science are both a blessing and a curse. We have access to solutions and cures for so many diseases and conditions that, in the past, have been fatal. But because of this power over nature, we often undervalue our bodies' own healing abilities and strengths. Concerning childbirth, we (and by 'we' I am mainly referring to modern Americans) use the lifesaving methods which should be reserved for the few to unnecessarily complicate the process for the many. Like giving the treatment for leprosy to everyone with a little dry skin. And we do it, as Grantley Dick Read could see even so many decades ago, and one of my personal heroes, Ina May Gaskin has taught since the 1970's*, because of the pervasive culture of fear. Women are taught to fear childbirth, to fear pain, even to fear the natural instincts which tell us to stand, to push, to place our newborn babes immediately on our breasts.

With my Riley growing inside me, I believe I truly overcame those fears.

At the time, Brian was working 60 hours a week at an intense job. December came, with Riley due December 19th, and Brian was told by his boss that if I hadn't given birth by December 15th, he could have time off for the birth OR Christmas, but not both. Everyone to whom I related this antidote said the same thing: get induced. But artificial inducement, usually done through use of the drug Pitocin, was absolutely a no-way for me. So I listened to my body, my baby, and, yes, my doctor, who all told me my baby boy was doing well, growing strong. I went for walks, took warm baths, and waited patiently for him to move lower, into a birth position. Then, on December 11th, when I felt with all my Mammahood instinct that he was ready, I rearranged our bedroom furniture. By myself. And my labor began that night.

Laurelei was with Brian and I in the hospital while I labored with Riley, and when he was born. She slept for most of it, and I won't pretend that we intentionally chose a family birth, but we had only lived in the town we were in for a few months and just didn't feel we knew anyone well enough to drop off our two-year old daughter in the middle of the night. I'm glad now that it happened that way. I wouldn't take it back. I worked through the contractions with Brian's arms around me, standing, kneeling, balancing on a ball, all while our sleeping daughter reminded me of the joy to come. The doctors and nurses, thankfully, for the most part, left us alone. No one told me how to labor, no one made me have an IV. No one looked askance at me when I said calling the anesthesiologist would not be necessary and no, thank you, I would only be on the bed when I wanted to be. And when I felt that unmistakable presence of my baby entering the birth canal, the reawakening of memories flooded my mind, bringing me even more to the moment, to the oneness of mother and child. With Brian's hands on my back, once again I pushed when my baby asked me to. The doctor barely made it into the room before my 9 lb., 5 oz. beautiful baby boy entered this mortal sphere. With him cradled on my chest, my husband's kisses fresh on his head and mine, Laurelei's first words for Riley were: "Oh Mamma, he's pretty."  

And those words, coupled with the love jam-packed into our little family of four and the soul-moving comfort of a newborn babe in my arms got me through the next few weeks, when that pesky, and sometimes scary, health problem I mentioned began to rear its head. But there were years to be lived and a third babe to be had before answers would become clear.

Natural Childbirth: My Story, Part III coming soon.

*so need to see this movie