Monday, January 19, 2015

Guest Post: Birth the way YOU choose

Happy Mama Monday! Today I am very excited to share with you a special guest post from my amazing friend, Jess. She is training to be a doula (she just assisted her first birth last week!) and when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and new babies, she is my go-to source. This warrior woman gave birth to both of her beautiful girls in a tub with absolutely no medications - just a midwife. I may have chosen to go the hospital/epidural route, but I have so much respect for those who choose a different plan. I think that's the most important thing - that you know you have options for giving birth and YOU choose. You do not have to just go with whatever a doctor is telling you. There's a wealth of information out there on every aspect of giving birth and today I wanted to give you just a little glimpse into a side of the birthing process that maybe you've never considered. So without further ado, I will let Jess have the microphone!
The saddest thing to hear when talking about birth is a mom say “I just wish I had known…” or “Wait, you’re allowed to DO that!?” I can tell when she is less than thrilled about how her delivery went. It always sounds the same; “They said I wasn’t progressing” or “They said I was going too far past my due date.” The look of realization that her rights as a human being had quickly slipped from her sweaty, vulnerable fingers just breaks my heart. Yes, she has a beautiful, healthy baby and that’s all that really matters at this point! Actually, no, thats not all that matters. Not to mom. There is something about having your delivery go as close to your birth plan as possible, and it is the most fantastic, empowering feeling in the world! There is also something about knowing you could have, and should have, had more.

This, my momma friends, is why I chose to place the most important decisions, the most precious moments of my life, far from the clutches of bureaucratic hospitals and into the gentle hands of midwives. This decision is not for everyone, I understand, but hear me out because I don’t want you to ever say “I didn’t know that was even an option!” So what is the very first thing you think of when you hear the word “Hospital?” Do you think life, joy, new beginnings, comfort, warmth, sacred? Probably not. Hospitals are there (and thank goodness!) to treat people with illnesses; a place to bring sick and injured people to die. What place does a glowing pregnant woman have in such a building? Pregnancy is not a medical emergency that requires treatment. Let’s leave the doctors who are ever in high demand to fix the things that are actually broken rather than accidentally break something that is so common and natural. The words I first mentioned are the ones that come to my mind when I hear “Birthing Center” or “Home-birth.” I should tell you I am one of those women who are so utterly obsessed with pregnancy and birth that other day my friend called me a “birth junkie.” I more than happily accept that label. I am not lying when I say that I cannot wait to labor again, I would do it a hundred times (but Lord, please don’t take that as wanting to raise one hundred children!) I blame my affinity for the birthing process on midwives. I adore the saintly women who attended both of my children’s births which took place under water. Yes, I do get called crazy. Often. I want to tell you why I am not insane, just educated about my options. I have made a list of things that are “allowed” during pregnancy and labor that so many hospital-birthing moms with whom I have spoken had no clue was possible.
You are allowed to:
  • Change health care providers at 41 weeks into pregnancy
  • Be pregnant for 42 weeks
  • Labor at home for as long as you want
  • Hand out a birth plan to each nurse
  • Have a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) in most cases
  • Self hydrate, and I’m talking more than just ice chips
  • Walk freely without being hooked up to a monitor
  • Not be attached to an IV drip
  • Deny any vaginal exams
  • “Fire” your nurse at any time and request a new one
  • Never even lay in the bed
  • Take your time dilating and effacing 
  • Wear your own clothes and not a hospital gown
  • Have pitocin without having an epidural
After baby arrives you are allowed to:
  • Delay cord clamping
  • Have immediate skin-to-skin contact with baby
  • Not have nurses wash and wipe down baby first
  • Have all procedures done in the room with you
  • Deny any medication for baby (Vitamin K, erythromycin, etc.)
  • Never have baby leave the room (if baby is healthy, of course)
  • Keep your son’s foreskin intact
  • Take something other than harsh narcotics for pain
The wonderful, amazing, fantastic thing about having a midwife is that every single one of these options are simply a given. Of course you need to eat while you’re in labor, you need the energy to push your baby out! Of course you don’t have to have cold fingers shoved up into your cervix, your body will let you know when it’s time to push! How many things on the list did you already know? It is easy in such an emotional time to let a doctor or nurse bully you into doing something with which you are not comfortable. Don’t let them! The easiest way to do this is to oh-so-carefully choose a healthcare provider whom you trust with your life (because that’s exactly what you are entrusting to them). Which is why you are allowed to switch doctors even days before your baby arrives. This is your day, you only get this day once and this birth will set the tone for the next birth and the next. Like I said, these are all options available to you in a hospital as long as you stick to your guns and demand (or ask sweetly for) them, and all options already assumed to you when you have a birthing center or home-birth.
So what do midwives do? They put a family’s wishes first, they do not pressure you or judge you for your decisions. They view pregnancy and labor as a normal event that should be held in the highest respect. They gently guide, assist, stand with women whose bodies are fully capable of delivering a baby on its own, in its own time. You’ll have the same amount of prenatal appointments (without wasting hours in a stuffy waiting room,) and they make visits right to your house for the first few days after you have the baby. They will catch your baby, let your partner catch your baby, let you catch your baby...whatever you ask for, you will almost always get it! In the tub, in the shower, in the hall, on the bed, on a birthing stool, on the toilet, over a yoga ball, over a dresser, squatting, standing, laying, lunging- they will happily let you have that baby any creative way you can think up, no stirrups in sight. Midwives are fabulous at anticipating needs and are already helping you with the next step before you even knew you needed the help. Ina May Gaskin (the raddest lady around and one of my role models who is known as the “mother of midwifery”) puts it perfectly when she says “physiologically, birth doesn’t happen the same way around surgeons, medically trained doctors, as it does around sympathetic women.” It has been proven that bodies work more efficiently with women who truly care than they do with doctors in a hospital setting, where people unknowingly tense up with all of the tests and procedures, being checked on hourly to make sure their labor isn’t going south (I mean I guess you want your labor to go south, but in this case I meant it as a figure of speech.) The people around you during your labor not only have an emotional impact, but also a physical effect on your body. Choose wisely. It matters.

But isn’t it scary having a baby with someone other than a trained professional? Let me clear up a few things about midwives. They are trained. They are professional. They come prepared for urgent situations, be it at a birthing center or at your house; oxygen for hyperventilation, pitocin for hemorrhaging, scissors for emergency episiotomies, sutures for tears, antibiotics for GBS, they have it all. Midwives are not blase about special circumstances. If something is noticed that seems unsettling, they will not simply send you home to sleep it off. When I was 41 weeks and 5 days pregnant my baby’s heart rate went wonky. At my prenatal appointment my midwife told me that we could try a few techniques to get the heart rate back to a happy one, but she definitely recommended that I go to the hospital for fetal heart monitoring. My motherly instincts told me that nothing was wrong, however my overprotective mama brain told me I should go and make sure. I mean, why in the world would I risk something like that? After jiggling my booty in a rebozo, giving me homeopathics and a reassuring pep-talk, I got out of cat/cow position, got some food and a gallon of water and waddled on into the hospital. Everything was a-okay at that point, which I believe is thanks to drinking water and getting a hearty booty shake. All this is to say: midwives are not fru-fru, careless witches. They are not anti-doctor/hospital. Their main goals are safety and healthy babies and they will do what needs to be done to achieve such.
I know I am obviously an advocate for the natural birthing route but I do understand that it might not be your cup of tea. That’s totally fine! I would never tell someone they are any less of a mother for having an elected c-section. I’m not gonna lie, I will probably spout off a few reasons why maybe just trying to see how going into labor works for you first, and then you can always still have a cesarean. I would never tell someone they are wrong for wanting an epidural right away. Again, I will probably suggest attempting labor without medication first, just to see how things go, and then you can always get an epidural if it’s still what you want. But please, at least try it one way because you can change your mind later but you can’t go back to natural once the needle is in your back or your uterus is sliced.
We have come such a long way with how we give birth and there are countless options for mothers these days. I have barely nicked the iceberg here. My hope is that I have at least given enough information to spark your curiosity in the matter, that before you just allow yourself to fall into the sticky pregnancy submission trap you research all options for your specific situation and location. I cannot stress enough that this decision, though some may not understand or care, can change your life and your relationship with your spouse and children forever. I promise it is worth your time. I promise you will not regret it.

1 comment:

  1. I love love love this post! Here in South Africa there are very few midwives, and even fewer doulas available to moms wishing to have a home birth. Doctors tell moms at 20 weeks that "this is gonna be a big baby" and encourage a C section from half way (if not even earlier on) in a pregnancy. As an ex paramedic I have delivered over 50 babies all without drugs! I know what a woman's body was built to do. I so badly want a home birth when my time comes, but there are so few resources available to me that it may have to be hospital based. There will be no drugs though, there will be no medicine or IV or scalpels unless really necessary. I wish more women were encouraged to investigate all options for their birth, and were told just how capable their bodies are!