As with many mothering topics, child birth can feel a little divisive at times. When mothers make different parenting decisions or differing situations lead to divergent choices, it can be hard for women to know how to find common ground. This comes up with everything from birth to breastfeeding, from working to schooling, from meal time decisions to play time decisions. And those are just the ones I’ve encountered in my three short years of experience.
But we all make the choices that seem right for us at the time. Every family carves its own path and that is what makes us unique and interesting. So as I’ve said before, I take a little pause at writing about anything that has “natural” in front of it. But “Why I wanted an unmedicated, intervention-free, partner-coached childbirth in a supportive medical environment” just didn’t have the same ring.
I want to share my reasons because I have definitely encountered the question “Why?” when I’ve mentioned taking the Bradley Method of Husband-Coached Childbirth classes, or said that I didn’t have an epidural.
Thanks to The Business of Being Born DVD, some questions were raised in my mind about why birth has become such a medicalized enterprise in our society. Thanks to the Bradley classes and other reading, I learned about the marvelous processes of the female body as it prepares for labor and delivers a baby. If everything seemed to be going smoothly, I was leery of getting in the way of this biological design. I felt strongly that I wanted to avoid any interventions and let my body do its job.
My little sister is pregnant right now with her first baby, as are many of my friends. I’ve told my sister once and I’ll tell her again: “I couldn’t care less whether you have a “natural” child birth. If you decide to get an epidural, you won’t need to explain that choice to me. BELIEVE ME, I’ll understand!” Labor is hard, and I was asking for pain relief just as many women do. I credit the Bradley class with helping both my husband and me prepare mentally and physically to get me past this point.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
4:45 p.m. 38.5 week doctor’s visit – doctor’s check has me at 4 cm and leaves me cramping. “That’s labor honey,” my doctor says.
5:45 p.m. Eating dinner with my mom and husband – contractions are coming regularly – I’m starting to believe this could be early labor.
6:45 p.m. My Bradley coach, husband Jacob, says we should go for a walk. Our walk turns into one of my favorite memories – just the two of us, on the eve of becoming parents, walking through the Garden District at night, looking at Christmas lights and peaking inside warm/lit houses.
8:30 p.m. Contractions had picked up on walk but back at the house, they slowed down. I watch an episode of Glee for the first time.
9:00 p.m. Coach Jacob tells me I need to go to bed. I’m resistant but he is firm, saying I need to get rest.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
2:30 a.m. At first I was waking about every hour with back pain and noticeable contractions but by mid-morning, I’m waking with every contraction. I wake Jacob up.
3:00 a.m. We pull out the first season of West Wing and watch an episode – contractions stay regular but not too painful. My mom hears us up and gets in the shower. A veteran of four super fast labors, she assumes we’ll be leaving for the hospital soon.
4:00 a.m. I’m tired and want to go back to bed. Jacob falls back asleep but the contractions keep me up. Most are eight or so minutes apart.
5:00 a.m. I give up on sleep and get in a warm bath. I then decide I’ll go ahead and get ready for the day, as, like many women I know, the idea of being “dressed” for labor seems important for some reason. *If we have a third baby, I will skip this part. I mean REALLY, like the make-up will still be on when the baby finally comes out!
6:00 a.m. My mom makes me oatmeal. She’s been in town the last week and been taking wonderful care of me. She’s very excited to be around for the birth of her first grandbaby.
7:00 a.m. I talk to my dad on the phone. For the first time, I hand the phone off when a contraction hits. They are getting a little stronger.
7:30 a.m. Jacob makes me go on the first of about four walks around the neighborhood. My mom starts looking a little on edge. She drops an occasional comment about going to the hospital. She is having a hard time adjusting to the idea that any daughter of hers will have a slow labor. Her first labor was less than 3 hours!
12:00 p.m. After a morning of walks and couch time, I debate whether to eat lunch. My mom suggests a fruit smoothie which Jacob makes for me.
12:30 p.m. I start to feel a little shaky. I remember saying “I don’t think the contractions will get any stronger – maybe closer together, but not stronger than this.” Naivete at its finest!
12:45 p.m. I start to feel nervous about being at home and announce I want to go to the hospital. I tell Jacob I think I’m in transition. He loves to tell that story now. He held his tongue at the time, but he did not believe I was in transition.
1:15 p.m. We arrive at the hospital. The nurse checks me, and I’m 5-6 cm. She says I don’t act like I’m 5-6 cm. At this point, I’m not moaning or crying, but am calmly closing my eyes during contractions. In hindsight, I see that this was still “easy” labor.
2:00 p.m. My doctor comes by to check me – she thinks I might be more like 6-7 cm. This sounds good to me! I send a text to friends, a sign that I’m still in my right mind.
3:00 p.m. Coach Jacob suggests a hospital hallway walk. I don’t see any other laboring moms out for a stroll. I have to stop during a contraction; a nurse asks if we are okay.
4:00 p.m. I’m now really uncomfortable. My back is hurting even between contractions. I try different positions. I try standing in the shower, but I’m not able to find relief.
5:00 p.m. I’m starting to feel like I’m in over my head but I’m holding on to the idea that my doctor will be back soon (after business hours) and that somehow this means my baby will soon come.
5:30 p.m. My doctor has come by and checked me. I’m at 8 cm. This feels like crushing news since a very painful 3 hours has only led to 1 cm of progress. My doctor breaks my water, and instantly my pain goes to never experienced levels. When I realize my doctor has faded out of the room, I ask where she is and realize she’s left the hospital. I now know my labor isn’t ending any time soon and, for the first time, I lose it.
6:00 p.m. It’s around this time that my last shred of modesty has disappeared. I’ve thrown my hospital gown on the ground because I’m hot, and I’m on all fours on the hospital bed trying to find a bit of comfort. It’s elusive.
6:30 p.m. For a brief time (15 minutes?), I get into a rhythm on the birthing ball and am almost able to ride out each contraction, but at the peak I start to freak out. I have a distinct memory of feeling like there is a tornado inside my body and I can’t escape it; like I’m on this scary roller coaster and there is no way to get off.
7:00 p.m. There is a shift change and I beg the new nurse to “please help me.” I remember this. My mom and husband also tell me I said “Please help me – they won’t help me.” I keep saying to my mom, “Mommy, please help me.” I make my mom tear up at this point. My husband, to his credit, stays calm and encouraging. The nurse keeps saying, “just listen to Jacob.” In the next hour, I start sounding a little desperate. As sweet as my husband was that day, he’s happy to tell you now that I said: “I want to die,” “Cut me open and get this baby out,” and “I don’t want any more children.”
8:00 p.m. Around this time, I’m saying “I think I need to push.” This was entirely because I wanted it to be true and not really because I had any urge. I was checked and was “a little more than 9” to which I cried, “but I want to be 10!” The nurse does decide to call the doctor.
8:15 p.m. The nurses are letting me get in the position to start pushing. I remember looking at the clock and thinking, “okay, I’ll give this 30 more minutes and then I’m done.” It’s funny how delusional you can be in a time like this!
8:38 p.m. 25 minutes of pushing later, and all 8 lbs, 10 oz of Jack Owen Landry is born. I much preferred the pushing stage to the last few hours of labor. At least I knew we were getting somewhere! Just as I’d been told by friends, it was pretty much instant relief. From pure pain to pure joy!
So I’ve said why I wanted a natural birth prior to having experienced one. Afterward, Jack’s birth became a very empowering experience for me. I really felt so proud of bringing him into the world, and I love that I was intensely present for every moment of it. After one night of rest, I recanted my “I don’t want to have any more children” comment and said I would definitely do it again. As the months passed, I said that I would just want to do it “with more grace” the second time around.
The trouble with a second birth is that rather than not knowing what to expect, you think you know what to expect! For full details on Cora’s birth, check out my account written the day after she was born. It was very different than Jack’s!