I can't really start focusing on preparing for my upcoming birth until I talk about my last birth. I never blogged Little Spaghetti's birth story. Partly because I didn't have a blog when he was born, but also partly out of guilt. And a little bit of feeling like a failure. If I'm going to tackle baby girl's birth head-on, though, with no fear, I have to let go of those things and be honest with myself.
It actually started long before I gave birth. Around the middle of my pregnancy with Little Spaghetti, I felt amazing. Truly wonderful. Not just physically, but emotionally, too. Being pregnant made me feel so...feminine. I'd never before felt so lucky to be a woman. Not that I'd ever disliked being a woman...I just had never thought much of it. But during my pregnancy, I was in awe of my body and myself.
Watching my stomach blow up like a balloon as a life grew inside it was incredible. Seeing my body do this amazing thing that it was designed to do made me feel so in-tune with who I was as a woman. This may cause some feminists in the crowd to throw daggers at me, but being pregnant made me feel more empowered than anything else I had ever done in my life. Including my career. Including graduating from an Ivy League university.
I started reading a lot about birth and labor. As I read, I started to find more and more women who were frustrated by the way that many people (and many doctors, in particular) treat pregnancy in this county. Like it's an illness. Like there's something wrong with pregnant people.
I knew that I definitely didn't feel that way. I felt miraculous, not sick.
Research led to more research, and I kept finding things about how common it is for doctors to intervene in the birth process. It seems that many doctors (and nurses) just like to tinker with birth. To manage it, as they say, which - I think - means to control it. To speed up labors they don't think are moving quickly enough. To keep women in bed instead of moving about so they can continuosly monitor baby's heart rate. To give epidurals and then pitocin to keep the uterus contracting. This "cascade of interventions" is a pretty well-known concept that many others are more qualified than I am to talk about. (Read more here or here if you're interested).
The thing that bothered me most was learning that the routine use of most of these interventions was not supported by evidence. There were no good indications that these things led to better outcomes for mother or baby in the majority of normal, low-risk births. And, in some cases, they lead to just the opposite.(Lots more information here, particularly here).
I started to fall very squarely in the "birth is a natural thing that women have been doing for eons" camp (all the while being glad that we live in a time where we have medical advancements that can save lives when they're needed). My OB, however, was not at all in this camp.
She first suggested a c-section when I found out Little Spaghetti was breech at 33 weeks. She said, "Well, babies who are breech this late usually stay that way, so we might as well just schedule a c-section for 37 weeks." I asked if there was anything I could do or try to get him to turn. She gave me a flat, "No."
I knew that wasn't true. I left feeling so frustrated. I didn't like the path I was on, and I had to do something to get off it. So, I found a local midwife. She recommended a chiropractor in town who was trained in the Webster technique.
After a few visits to the chiropractor, I was pretty sure that my baby had flipped head-down. It turns out that my hips were misaligned (something I'd had trouble with in the past), which was causing my uterus to be sort of lopsided. The chiropractor was able to get the tendons and ligaments on the tight side to loosen up, which rounded out my uterus and gave my little guy the space he needed to get into the right position.
I told my OB at the next appointment that I was pretty sure the baby had flipped. She poked my belly and said there was no way. She could feel his bony little head right up by my ribs.
The same thing happened the next week. She was still convinced that he was head-up.
Finally, the week after that, I insisted that she do an ultrasound. Guess who was shocked when she discovered that my little breech baby wasn't breech any more. And that bony little head up by my ribs? That was his butt.
Things went smoothly over the next three weeks. I continued to see the midwife, and we were making plans for a home birth. I decided that if I wanted to avoid unnecessary interventions, it was the way to go. But I also kept seeing my OB since I was so close to the end of the pregnancy. That way, if I did need to go to the hospital during the birth, I'd have my doctor instead of just ending up with whoever was on-call for emergencies.
I can't even remember how many people tried to talk me out of the home birth. The people who thought it was a good idea were few and far between, to say the least.
Now, I'm definitely not someone who thinks everyone should have a home birth. If you want a home birth, go for it. If you want to schedule a c-section at your earliest convenience, go for it. If you want something in the middle, go for it. The problem, though, is that having something in the middle didn't really feel like an option to me.
Even as I was planning a home birth, I would have prefered to be planning a low-intervention hospital birth attended by a midwife instead of a trained surgeon (an OB). But they wouldn't let my midwife deliver in a hospital because she didn't work under an OB (and there are no birth centers in the area). And I didn't trust my OB to stand behind me on my desire for a low-intervention birth. Especially after she talked at almost every appointment about how much more pleasant her moms were once they got their epidurals.
Really, what I wanted seemed pretty simple to me. I just wanted to be treated like a normal person. Sure, a normal person who was having a baby, but just a human being. I didn't want an IV because I didn't see any reason to have one; I wasn't sick. I wanted to be able to walk around the room while I labored, not be strapped to a monitor and forced to stay in bed. I wanted to be able to eat or drink if I felt like it to keep my strength up, not be restricted to ice chips "just in case." I wanted to take all that new-found womanly empowerment that pregnancy had brought me and let my body do its incredible thing. I just wanted to go about my business and be left more or less alone.
Unless it was too much for me. Or unless something went wrong. Then, I wanted to have access to the epidural. And then I wanted to be able to be as close to emergency care as I could so my baby and I would be safe. I would rather be in the hospital so that I had back-up, I just wished that the hospital wasn't a place that I feared I'd be treated like a child and pressured into a series of interventions that aren't even supported by good research. I felt stuck.
But then, my due date came. My OB was ready to schedule an induction the next day. It was another battle to get her to let me wait and see if the baby would come when he was ready. I tried everything. Walking. Spicy foods. Sex. Bouncing on the exercise ball. Positive visualization. And more walking. And more sex.
41 weeks came and went. My OB became increasingly annoyed that I wasn't in labor and wouldn't be induced.
Finally, at 42 weeks, I agreed to the induction. I didn't really feel comfortable going past 42 weeks anyway. I know there are people out there who do it, but I was too worried. From what I'd read, 42 weeks was as long as I was willing to wait.
Part of me still wonders if my reservations about birth and my feeling like I had no great options for trying to have the birth I really wanted kept me from going into labor... There's no way to know, I suppose.
And, so, my home birth plans went out the window. As did my hope of anything close to a "natural" birth. At 9:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night, I checked into the hospital so they could begin monitoring me for the induction the next morning.
Stay tuned for Part 2...the actual birth story.