Thursday, May 26, 2011

On natural childbirth

As you may have assumed or gleaned from posts up until this point, we are going for natural childbirth. I have never really come right out and said it, I guess, but there it is.

What? Why? How? Are you insane?

Here's the deal. Up until trying for babies, I really honestly thought that I would be one of those epidural in the parking lot kind of gals. (No judgment btw if that's your choice, seriously, I totally understand) But, all of a sudden I was exposed to all of these different stories of women who had given birth with no pain meds, and they weren't lamenting how awful of an experience it was, or talking about needing a case of amnesia to have a second baby - they were empowered.

Here is our path to this decision, but let me first and foremost say that this is just our experience. I do not claim to be an expert on any of this stuff, especially as I have not given birth yet.

Let's face it, when you start thinking about babies, if you are anything like me anyway, you start getting hella obsessed with birth stories. Way back when, before I wanted babies of my own I was still obsessed with Baby Story and Birth Day and all those birthing shows on TV. Granted they only really showed one kind of birth story, but I was still so interested. Then, when I realized that women were sharing birth stories on the interwebs, I got a little ooc.

I started searching for birth story websites, and then subscribing to them through my Google Reader. The more and more variety I found in birth stories from all over the world, including some from some close friends, the more confident I was in gathering facts to see what this whole thing was all about.

Who exactly are midwives? Why are so many of these birth stories talking about them? Doulas? Birthing pools? What?

A good friend recommended that I check out The Business of Being Born, a documentary made by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein a few years ago.

If you have Netflix, you can instant queue it. That's what we did. A and I watched this documentary before we were pregnant. Now, I don't think that this is the be all, end all for the discussion on childbirth and the options that women have available, but it definitely opened my mind. We were impressed by the fact that it seemed pretty fair and balanced in comparison to some other documentaries we have seen (who knew Ricki Lake, who knew?) I would definitely recommend it.

The biggest thing that I took from that documentary was that I needed to know more. I needed to explore my options. I didn't think I was quite ready to jump into home birth, but at the same time knew I would like to avoid the scheduled round of standard inducing and delivering within a certain time frame if at all possible.

Logically, it just seemed to me that we had made something so natural so much more complicated than it needed to be (as a standard practice that is, sometimes birth does get complicated, yo). Technological advances totally make sense, and I am glad they are there should I, or any other woman, need them to ensure the safe delivery of my baby. But, women have been doing this since the beginning of human history, women in other countries still squat and birth their perfectly healthy and thriving babies on the dirt floors of their huts. Did those experiences count for nothing?

At this point, I am the first to admit, things sort of worked a little serendipitously for me. I was looking for a Gynecologist, someone with a practice that I could transition to OB care when the time came. (It was sooner than I thought. Ha.) Both my mom, and my good friend recommended the same doctor. Done and done, easy as pie. He had delivered both my sister and my friend's twins.

Granted he delivered both of them by cesarean, but I wasn't too worried about any of that at that point as I wasn't having a baby just yet (Ha.). Besides, my sister was born in 1987 after my mom had had me by c-section in '84 and VBACs were not standard practice then, for sure. And my friend had twins and some complications that typically go along with a multiple birth so she ended up in the OR too.

In any case, I went in, met him, liked him. Moved on. Approximately a week and a half later, I peed on a stick and found out I was KU'd myself. Welp, I thought, at least I have a doctor that I like! Then, I found out about the way their practice works. They have Certified Nurse Midwives, 4 of them (5 right now actually). And they handle all normal births and deliveries anyway. Oh, and they have this little thing called the Midwifery Center. That they run.

A birthing center? That seemed like the perfect middle ground option to both A and I. We would have the care from the midwifery model that was important to me, with the attachment to a hospital and OBs who knew me and my pregnancy (should emergency interventions become necessary) that calmed his nerves.

After our tour, we dove in. We had really enjoyed the brief intro that the tour gave us, and believe me when I say that we saw people from all walks of life there. (One of the other moms-to-be and I had a great conversation about our shared love for Longchamp bags and how J.Crew totally needs a maternity line.)

I am the first to admit, it was a little daunting to me to think about committing to doing this whole thing naturally (though clearly our birth still hasn't happened, so I know that this is a little premature - interventions could still be necessary and I totally realize that).

But, natural childbirth above and beyond anything else appeals to my sense of logic. It just makes sense to me. That's my choice. I know that there will be pain, I know that it will be one of the most difficult things I have ever done, if not the singular most difficult, but I approach the idea of natural childbirth with hope rather than anxiety. I have been able to surround myself with positive experiences of others, rather than negative ones, and prepare myself with techniques for that same positive experience. The key is a prepared natural experience.

I have to admit that being a military spouse has influenced this decision a lot. I may not have swung right for the fences with this baby had the future been a bit more sure. But a large part of me knows that I am lucky to have a wonderful practice and birthing center who are supportive of my desires less than two miles from my home. Why would I not take advantage of that now, while I can? We have no idea where we will live when our following babies (hopefully) are born, but if I have already climbed this mountain once, my confidence and ability to speak up for myself in possibly less supportive environments is going to be so much higher.

Again, I realize that all of this is totally naive as I haven't.ever.given.birth. (yet!) but this is how we arrived at this point, and how we made this choice.

*Also, even if you have your heart SET on natural childbirth, please be realistic in the fact that each baby has their own journey into this world, and sometimes you will need those medical interventions. They were originally invented for a reason, and a safe delivery for you and your baby are totally the most important thing. Let's not lose the view of the forest for the tress, mk?*

Some additional resources that I have found helpful if you are thinking about this, or not and are just interested, have been...

  1. The midwives. Seriously, KNOW your medical team and ask them questions! I felt super dumb at first asking so many questions and kept a little more quiet than I probably should have in the beginning, but believe you me, I am over that now.
  2. If you don't have a midwife practice, or a OB who is willing to talk to you about warm oil compresses and putting them on your perineum during labor and delivery - go find yourself a doula. Check out the doulas available in your area! (If you live in our around Austin, TX I happen to know a great one ;))
  3. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. People love this book and don't love it. I found that it was empowering to read (more birth stories - yay!) but as some reviewers state, the actual techniques for giving birth are a little lacking.
  4. Sign up for some natural childbirth classes in your area. There are going to be a lot of options, so check out what your docs, midwives or doulas think about the classes around you. Our Certified Childbirth Instructor also happens to be a doula, much like my friend Megan from the link above. People know people. Ask around. These classes will give you the actual techniques for birthing babies, or at least ours did. Look for that. Super important.
  5. The Birth Partner. This actually just came in, so I don't have a total review, but it came to us highly recommended. A is super excited to dive in (ha.)
  6. Google. Seriously, don't Wikipedia "natural childbirth" and think you have it covered. But, you can use Google to get to some great resources so long as you treat this process like you are actually researching for something. Like a giant paper in grad school - but way more important. 
Anywho, those are just a few if you are interested that we have found helpful. People way more professional and educated than me, with way more letters after their names, can recommend a whole mess of stuff to you based on your individual wants and needs. Just remember not to take any one thing as The Bible on Natural Childbirth. There isn't one. Read everything you can and then bring it all together like the intelligent person that you are (or at least pretend to be). 

35 weeks along

...and I realize that by putting this all down here on the interwebs is totally tempting the fates to screw with my plan, but cross your fingers that the fates play nicely this time. It's all part of the journey anyway, right?


  1. no way!! you aren't tempting any fates. I am a firm believer that unless you have a medical reason not to, you should plan and prepare for a natural childbirth. If you get into it and change your mind, that is your business. Our bodies were built to birth these babies! wo0!

    ps thanks for the shout out!

  2. Courtney you can totally do this. Seriously. When it comes down to it, it's just one day (more than likely) of "pain" and discomfort...and anyone can handle anything for a day. Besides your mind is so "high" on natural hormones/endorphins that you don't even realize the passage of time and it's over before you know it! I need to get around to writing my birth story and putting it online somewhere. (Megan blogged about it too if you want a perspective from someone who wasn't in crazy brained birth land).