Throughout my pregnancy I have made it my mission to speak the truth about not only the physical but the mental changes I have undergone. My hope is that someone out there reading won’t feel so alone for having the same thoughts or reactions to all the overwhelming changes. Mine is just one experience of course so I can only speak to me. I plan to tell my birth story once it happens in just twelve or so more weeks. I’ve been reading a lot of birth stories online, and they have taken the fear out of birthing for me. I’d like to preface my birth story with my expectations of the birth especially as I take the time now to start writing out my birth plan in week 28, month 7.
My friend and doula Casey was the first person who even made me think of a birth plan. I honestly had never thought about what kind of experience I would like. When Casey gave birth and told me her birth story I honestly though she was crazy. She wanted a natural birth, and I could not fathom such a thing. But despite having to have pitocin to kick start her contractions (her water broke but nothing happened after that for a good 18 hours) Casey delivered without complications. So when I became pregnant part of me thought, “well if she can do it why don’t I at least try?” So I started doing my homework. It amazes me how many women don’t do their homework when it comes to birthing. I probably wouldn’t have either if Casey or my midwife hadn’t prompted me so if no one is prompting you consider this your sign – start doing your research. You can’t really pick a care provider until you consider the type of birth you want. Or at least you shouldn’t. It’s like picking a wedding venue or dress before you picture how you want your special day to be. I decided for me I wanted to attempt a water birth. A lot of hospitals have tubs for the labor part but they will make you get out for the actual delivery. Only one in the state had a water birthing tub. This hospital also happened to be the only place that worked with midwives. (I chose a hospital for insurance purposes but in most cases I found that Colorado’s many midwifes that attend home births charge the same as what I will pay out of pocket. Perhaps my second will be a home birth…) Knowing I wanted a natural water birth I knew I needed a midwife; they seemed the most closely aligned with my values and goals. They are the go-to for normal pregnancies. Their care is individualized and focuses on minimizing the use of obstetrical intervention when possible. They provide all the prenatal care healthy women need. Midwifery care is associated with fewer episiotomies, fewer forceps and vacuum-extractor deliveries, fewer epidurals and fewer c-sections. They can stitch you up and do everything an OB does except cut you open.
The provider I chose has a staff of five midwives and the day I give birth determines who I get. For me knowing that one of those five will deliver my baby is wonderful. Better than having an OB who is out of town or attending another birth that same moment and you have to have someone else deliver your baby who you don’t know or trust at all in my opinion. My appointments last between 20 minutes to a half hour. They remember me – that I teach yoga, that I fly, details about my life outside of pregnancy. One of them, Anne, looked inside my soul one appointment when she told me not to worry about weight gain and to buy “the cutest maternity clothing your budget will allow” to make myself feel better. She told me, “I can tell you are someone who values the way you look” – does this lady know me or what?
The percentage of those that can have a water birth is very small because you have to have a near perfect pregnancy. So far I’m on track. I’ve researched a lot and the water seems to be a soothing pain reliever for most women. Of course, I could get in the water and hate it but I want the option. And that’s what birthing is all about- knowing your options. There is more in your control than you think. You can choose what position you deliver in, if your baby has a bath or is taken to the nursery after it is born. You can choose if you have to have a c-section, to have the sheet lowered at the last minute so you can see the baby pulled out. You can choose to have the baby laid on your chest right away. You can chooose who you want to cut the cord and if you want to eat and drink in labor, if you want to save the placenta and who you want in the room. You also choose if you want the vitamin k shot and if you want the eye goop they put in the baby’s eyes (this is if you have an STD and not medically necessary if you don’t). All of these choices are so important. Even knowing what each procedure entails – like if you have an epidural you have to have a catheter and then your legs will be numb so you must lie on your back to push which is less than ideal position for the baby to come out. Other side effects of an epidural can include a dramatic drop in blood pressure and if given too early it can slow the process of dilation, descent of the baby and proper position of the part of the baby emerging first. And they increase the chance of a c-section, forceps or vacuum-extractor delivery.
If you don’t know your options you have none.
I realized that giving birth to me is like hiking a 14er – except this is my Everest of hikes. When I decide to hike a mountain I research it online. I read trip reports. I go on message boards and ask questions. I prepare mentally and physically. When I arrive at the base I look up, and I know it will be tough work to reach the summit. When I hike I start strong but there are moments when I question myself. There are times when I get halfway through and wonder why I’m doing this. What am I trying to prove? What does this even matter? I look up and the summit seems so far but I look back and I’ve come a long ways. I press on until finally I reach my goal. I visualize myself on the summit before I even reach it and, in 27 hikes, I’ve never not reached the top. People ask me if they can hike a 14er. I tell them it’s more mental than physical.
Childbirth will be hard but it can be done. Women all over the world do it every hour of every day. My choice is to at least try the way that allows me to experience the pain. I don’t want to numb it, I want to feel it, and have gratitude for my body. Other people don’t want the pain and that’s fine. Other people don’t want to hike 14ers either. To me the end result will be worth the pain and the hassle.
When I plan to hike 14ers I always tell myself too – the only thing that will stand in the way of getting to the top is something that’s going to endanger my life. And that’s how I feel about natural childbirth. The only way I give in or give up is if something is going to endanger my life or my baby’s. And that’s my own personal choice I am putting out in to the universe with the hope that I can be reminded of this when the time comes.
*Whatever type of birth you are considering I highly recommend watching the documentary, “The Business of Being Born.” For me it took the fear out of birthing and seeing it as beautiful and natural not something to be scared of. Remember – do your homework, know your options and be prepared.
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About the Author: Natalie Magee writes a regular column for Happiness Series about what motherhood and beyond - from prenatal to postpartum. Her intention with her column, "Baby & Beyond - What No One Else Will Tell You" is to give practical advice and tips to the busy mom and mom-to-be. She also shares her experiences good, bad and ugly as a woman, wife, mom, flight attendant and fitness instructor. Natalie is also a regular fitness contributor on Happiness Series. She will continue to create great, effective workouts for anyone - including the busy moms out there - who wants to get fit and stay in shape.