Sunday, March 30, 2014

Choosing a Natural Birth

This post is a bit more journal entryish, but is something I wanted to write out. Not only just to sort of explain to others where I'm coming from with all this, but also for me. So that I have written down why I made this goal. Just like so many times before, when I wrote down why I was attempting a marathon, or a 50k, or a 50 miler, that didn't quite make sense to most people. So, feel free to skip if you aren't interested in reading my ramblings about our birth goals :).


We've finally reached this point in the pregnancy that seemed like it would never arrive. Labor could actually happen at any time (though hopefully it'll wait a few more weeks!). All of our classes are wrapping up, our midwife appointments are now weekly and mostly one on one, and we're doing things like writing up a birth plan, and thinking about what it will be like to bring our little one home.

Being at this point in pregnancy, I've been reflecting a lot on how my ideas about pregnancy, childbirth, and baby care has shifted into a realm that I really wasn't planning on entering - referred to a lot as being "crunchy" (the natural birth is sort of the biggest part, but there are lots of other things too that we've decided on. This post is too full to include it here - maybe another day). I sort of wanted to write about it, since it ended up being sort of surprising to me.

I entered this pregnancy planning to do everything conventionally. I honestly didn't understand women who wanted to give birth without drugs, who thought they needed a birth plan. When I read about women with those goals, I always thought they were sort of naive. That they didn't really "get it." Unlike most women who saw "The Business of Being Born," after I saw it, I just thought the whole thing was propaganda and fear mongering and not at all true about how hospital labor would be.

Very newly pregnant and so excited about starting this unknown journey

Then I got pregnant. My change in mindset was honestly fairly gradual. First, we decided to go with midwives, instead of an OB. This was mostly because there were only 5 midwives in our practice, versus 20+ OBs, and I didn't want the person delivering my baby to be someone I hadn't met before. I knew my mom had used midwives, so we decided to go for it. Then, I started attending prenantal yoga around 14 weeks. This was probably one of the biggest influences on my decision to do a natural birth. My instructor is a doula, and her open and reassuring discussions about natural birth (and her own birth experience) started normalizing a world where women birthed without drugs. All the other women in the class were doing natural birth (or had already gone through one) and had nothing but positives to say about the experience. Then we started attending our midwife group and again, were surrounded by couples planning a natural birth and midwives who promised to be supportive of that goal. With all the pregnant women I was interacting with, none were planning to labor with medication.

Our team of midwives:Belinda, Janice, Diane, Laura, and Mina

So, my thoughts about getting an epidural began to change. It started to seem normal to skip meds. I also started to think about labor and delivery as an endurance event, like a marathon or ultramarathon, and felt like my determination and ability to handle exhaustion and pain would be something I could tap into.

And, I thought my ability to handle pain could be a silver lining from suffering from chronic pelvic pain for the last 10 years and chronic leg pain for the last 7. To a certain extent, having had to deal with all this pain has really made me stronger. At so many times during the last decade, I've felt that that pain has been able to overwhelm me. I've tried so many things for both conditions, even considering major surgery, but have reached a point where, for now, I have accepted and learned to live with the pain. But I think because of that, the idea of taking drugs for the pain just isn't that appealing. I've already had 2 epidurals for my leg pain (injected with steroids instead of anesthesia) which did nothing for me. I don't necessarily have confidence that drugs would even work right, because my body is sort of funny with pain medications (i.e. they don't work). I would rather learn how to accept and work with my body than try to keep fighting it.

Through researching natural birth, we've definitely discovered other benefits - less likelihood of "scary" (to me) interventions like pitocin and c-sections, better recovery time for mom and baby, more success with breastfeeding, etc. I still think there is a definitely place for epidurals in childbirth - I know many who found that getting an epidural allowed them to relax enough to dilate fully, or who had to get labor interventions that just made contractions too intense and painful to be successful without an epidural and completely respect those decisions. I haven't personally known anyone whose epidural caused noticeable issues with anything or who regretted their decision, so I still do think that the idea that "an epidural will definitely cause problems" is completely untrue and just playing on fears. Like so many things with being a parent, this is one of those individual choices that's so dependent on your own needs.

Bradley Header

We're really appreciating the information and practice from our Bradley class. If nothing else, it has been an excellent bonding experience for Ed and I and has taught us so much about good positions for labor and strategies for dealing with the pain. It's kept me focused on eating good quality foods throughout my pregnancy, doing exercises that keep my body in a little less pain, and supports what I'm learning in yoga.
Our Hospital - Mercy Gilbert

We've even written a "birth plan" (though we titled it "Birth Wishes" instead, since obviously you can't plan a labor). We kept it short and sweet, and tried to include things that are important to us, but shouldn't at all be in conflict with our hospital policies. I was honestly super against birth plans before it came time for me to make one, so I still have a bit of a hard time having one. However, there are important things for us to communicate. With my pelvic pain, there are certain things that I only want done in a medical necessity, rather than routinely. Also, Ed is going to "catch" Evan when he's born and cut the cord, which is something our midwives really encourage but is something that we have to decide and let them know about before the moment arrives.

I'm honestly really curious about how this whole birth will play out. I'm trying to keep low expectations because who knows what will happen, but I feel very positive about everything going into this. Regardless of what happens, we'll get to meet our son at the end of it all, which is just the most unbelievably wonderful thought possible.

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