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Robin

I hope you have the birthing experience you seek. But so many times it ends up differently than you expected. I am sure you know this.

I am one of those weird women whose first birth was less than 3 hours from losing my plug to having the baby. Hard hard contractions started about 20 minutes after losing the plug.

I know everyone is different, but reading about employees or hospitals "wresting control" away from a laboring woman made me laugh because for myself, I felt completely out of control the entire time. I went from 0 to 60 so fast, there were no clear stages and i could not think through the pain. They also couldn't give me anything, it was too late, although we were at the hospital less than an hour after losing my plug. Nothing helped. Not different positions, or concentrating, or breathing or whatever. It was just a crazy roller coaster ride.

I understand what you're trying to say, but everyone's experience is so different.

Kelly

I yell at those TV shows too. Usually it's to say, "What's the hurry, Dr. Happy Knife?" As I near my 42 week mark, I feel like I am surrendering my control more and more to the medical community. You are fortunate that you live in an area with midwives and acess to homebirth.

Good luck during the upcoming days!

Christine

Something I didn't post about, because it was upsetting, during the grunion's birth...
Their monitors were set up so that they could change the screen to any other woman laboring from any computer. If there was an emergency in one room, a notice went up to all the monitors. One woman was laboring to deliver her stillborn baby, so when they switched the screen to her it would show no baby's heartbeat. My doctor commented that every time she saw that screen her heart would stop for a second because she thought it was me (my heart would stop because I felt so bad for that family).

So maybe hospitals are likely to intervene to feel like they have some control over the situation. It might make it feel less dangerous or scary to them.

Dunno, just a thought.

And if I hadn't been so freaked out I think I could have handled things better. I wanted to move around to get into better positions to labor, but they wouldn't let me because my blood pressure went funky. So I was flat on my back and unhappy and that's why I ended up getting the epidural so early (and the doctors never realized that as I moved around to get into position for the epidural, I started dilating really quickly...duh).

I hope that you get the labor that you want, and that it giddyups very, very soon.

L.

I hope your birth goes well, and it`s great that you are doing what you feel is right for you. But remember, some women "choose" c-sections -- it`s not always about wresting control.

I had my first c-section because my body didn`t go along with my birth plan (baby was 2 weeks overdue, I wasn`t even remotely effaced, and all 2 days of pitocin got me was a whopping 1 cm dilation). Beforehand, a surgical birth had been my very worst fear, to be avoided at all costs. In the end, it wasn`t so bad -- I got through it just fine, and my son was perfectly healthy. I ended up scheduling my second one -- after my due date, so I could I wait to see if I went into labor on my own, but no such luck.

Years later, I STILL get comments -- "You LET them do a c-section?" "You didn`t even TRY?" "You actually SCHEDULED a c-section? Oh, it`s too bad you didn`t have better information, or you would have known better and not done that." (The one I love the most is, "Oh, you took the easy way out." Since when is getting your stomach cut open easy? Only in childbirth!) It`s not just c-sections -- I have friends who went the natural route, and they tell me they get it, too -- "Why would you want to put yourself and your baby through 4 hours of pushing? That`s ridiculous."

No matter what you do, what you plan and how you alter that plan to fit your partcular situation, people are going to make stupid remarks that will piss you off.

Brooklyn Girl

When I posted about this awhile back, I made the critical mistake of forgetting that not everyone is as fortunate as I am to live in a major metropolitan area with a variety of birthing options available (and personal access to insurance that gave me a range of options). My bad.

I picked a different birthing route than you, Jo, though that doesn't stop me from admiring the choices you've made--as well as the fact of the choice exists.


Heather

I was very lucky to have had a good experience of childbirth in a hospital. They let me have as many helpers as I needed, as I was not getting an epidural, although I did have monitors on sometimes and I had an IV of antibiotics. We knew my DD would need surgery on her lungs shortly after birth (she had it at 7 days old) from ultrasounds we had every week.

Our hospital doesn't send babies to a separate nursery, they have four rooms around where the babies sleep until they wake and are taken right to their mothers. We didn't get to use this as Phoebe was in the NICU, but they let us stay at the NICU 24/7 and even provided a room for us to sleep in with a phone they could call me in the middle of the night to nurse. I was able to start nursing her after the first 24 hours when she was off the ventilator. No problems as the LC was an amazing help. When she went to the peds hospital for the surgery they were so nice there too. We changed all her diapers, took her temps when the nurses wrote her vitals, etc. I think they liked how involved we were.

The last night I had a problem nurse I had to stand up to. She didn't want us staying overnight across the hall in the lactation room where we had been the last three nights. She asked me if it wouldn't be a pain for me to be woken up to nurse when they had bottles of my breastmilk available in the fridge. I matter of fact told her that it would have to be OK, as the next day she was going home and I'd have to wake up to nurse her every night anyway. So then in the middle of the night, I took Phoebe back to the lactation room to nurse, and this nurse kept knocking on the door asking if we were OK. It was very frustrating. I told her to leave us alone that this was my baby and I would bring her back when we were finished and not a moment sooner.

Other than that, everyone was super, but it made me so happy to get her home and have her all to ourselves.

Sherry

I never really gave much thought to how I wanted to give birth until I was strapped to the bed, threaded with a fetal scalp electrode and being told that due to a low platelet count, I would probably have to give birth via c-section because of a bleeding risk.

Despite having Max vaginally, albeit with a cranked up epidural and assistance of a vacuum, since Sara was breech, there was a distinct possibility that she might have to be born via c-section. It was then that I panicked and begged the doctor to do whatever he could to ensure that didn't happen. The hospital staff seemed shocked that my cavalier doctor decided to grab her little feet and drag that kid into the world, saving me from being cut open. Apparently, the easy way out would've been a c-section...not so easy for me, though.

Choices are important, and the route that appears "easier", may not be that at all.

Great post Jo.

Kim

Here Here, JO! Great Post. First birth, good patient- c-section. 2nd birth, I made the decisions and had natural childbirth that was great. It was an amazing accomplishment for me- my most amazing to date actually.

Happy Home Birth Jo! I hope little one decides to show up soon.

Mare_Imbrium

(long time lurker I think first time poster, btw)

oh my. I felt my stomach churn just reading your post. That's exactly how I feel is happening to me. That's how I felt last time. Like I had to spend a portion of my brain to fight for some control over the situation and I lose because the doctors and nurses are such an...authority and there's this doubt in my mind that says "well, they're supposed to know best..."

See, I'm 13 weeks pregnant with my second. My first was born by c-section because he was 10 days late and 17-18 hours of induction got me to 9cm and I wasn't dilating to 10 and I had a fever and the baby's heartrate had started going up. I must say it was an awful, awful experience (made even more so because of the fever: he had to go to the NICU for possible infection and the nurses there were completely unsupportive of my desire to breastfeed exclusively after we went home).

You'd think this time I would have a better time of it. You'd think this time I would know more, know better. The only thing I know is I don't ever want to be given pitocin again, and they won't because of the previous c-section. But see...my son weighed 12 lbs, 2 oz. Big babies run in my family (my mom's biggest was 11lbs, 9oz) and I have no reason to believe that this next one will be less than 10lbs. So I am very conflicted. When my doctor says I have to have an epidural as soon as I'm 4cm, when he says if I don't progress at a certain rate (1.5cm every two hours) I'll have to have another c-section, am I being handled or is it because of my history of large babies?

I just feel so helpless. It's possible, but a pain (HMO crap), to change to a different OB practice. I should do it. I just...I feel like it's going to be like this no matter where I go, and I'm so conflicted. I don't want to do something dangerous for me and the baby just because I want a VBAC. How do I know where to draw the line? *sigh*

I'm sorry to dump all this crap on you. Your post just hit me in a sensitive place.

Katie

Former lurker here...wonderful post!

As a childbirth educator, I wholeheartedly agree. My husband, a family practice physician who attends births, would agree too. When in residency, he took to heart the advice of an older physician (who used to attend home births)..."Let birth take it's course; don't muck up the process if it's going well!" Now my husband's a doctor that some people call a different kind of M.D. ( a Midwife in Disguise :) ) who practices in a rural hospital that is very supportive of moms having the birth experience they want.

Wishing you all the best!

karyn

One of the best things my Dr. said to me during a prenatal visit that reassured me he and I were on the same page was, "A monkey could assist in 95% of births. I'm just there for the other 5% that run into difficulties."

Sadly, he wasn't on call during my first labour and the Dr. who was was in a hurry to do another procedure, so ordered an episiotomoy to speed things up, despite the fact that I was 7cm when I arrived at the hospital and had been doing just fine. Not cool.

My own Dr. was there for the second, and basically ran in at the last minute, threw on some gloves and caught the kid. After my first experience I had given him strict instructions like "no one goes near my cooter with scissors." (I may have found a nicer way of putting it!)

Having read and watched some women lose all personal control and feeling like they have to do what the Dr. says, I realize how lucky I was to find a Dr. who had a similar outlook to me.

Best wishes for a great homebirth! (In fact about two weeks before we had our second, my husband and I looked at each other and said "we should be having this one at home." But we didn't have time to make plans and the little guy was two weeks early anyway)

Jo

Oh, so many good points!

First, Christine says "So maybe hospitals are likely to intervene to feel like they have some control over the situation. It might make it feel less dangerous or scary to them."

I think that's it exactly. That's why they do a lot of what they do -- not out of malice, certainly, but out of a desire to help, which in that setting often comes in the form of trying to control (I don't mean *take* control, just *manage*). Unfortunately, there are plenty of things they do routinely for those reasons that haven't been proven to help -- I'm thinking, in particular, routine amniotomy, episiotomy, and IV, and routine constant fetal monitoring. All potentially useful tools, but used indiscriminately, they become problematic.

Robin's point, that it doesn't always happen the way you think it will, is well taken, and very, very true. Precipitous labors in particular are, I understand, incredibly tough to deal with -- some say even more so than really drawn-out labors. Having been present for a zero-to-sixty labor and birth, I'd sure believe it.

It's important to remember, going into birth, that anything can happen -- and to be open to that possibility. That was something we worked on a lot in my awesome childbirth education class, and as a result I now feel very relaxed and okay about the possibility of ending up in the hospital.

I also think that since, during labor, we often may not be in control (having somewhat more important things to attend to), that it's so important to be able to trust in our caregivers.

And L. is right -- women make a lot of different choices regarding childbirth. Some choose homebirth, some choose unassisted birth, some choose hospitals of varying type, some choose c-sections. There's more than one way to skin a cat, if you will. The key here, as anywhere, is *informed choice* -- which is exactly what it sounds like, say, L. and Brooklyn Girl made (although obviously it ain't for me to judge!). I will always stand up for the ability of women to choose what's best for themselves.

And woe to the people who fling criticism at individual women. That's just stupid and hurtful.

Yay for conversation!

Summer

Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect that this post isn't just about Selkie's entry, but also about my comments on that entry. "It isn't as easy as just advocating for yourself, or switching doctors or hospitals"... which is what I ham-fistedly suggested. For me, a well-educated woman living in a major city, a woman with a car, a woman who can get in that car and within half an hour arrive at my choice of ten hospitals or a freestanding birthing center, it is relatively easy. I have access to a lot of choices. I was lucky that the first OB I saw happened to be one who respected my choices, one who asked for a handful of my hypnobirthing instructor's cards to hand out. She was willing to bend hospital policy for me, to "forget" to put the monitoring bands on, to agree to not put in an IV unless I actually needed one. It's insensitive of me to act as if everyone could find such a paragon... but I'm not going to stop suggesting that it's worthwhile to look.

I know that speaking up isn't going to make midwife-like OBs appear out of thin air or rewrite draconian hospital policy manuals, but at least it's a start. Right now, the medical community assumes that every laboring woman wants an epidural, so I've got to think that every voice saying "no thank you, I can do this on my own" makes a difference, however tiny. For those of us for whom homebirth is not an option (for whatever reason) advocating for ourselves is the only weapon we've got.

I wish, also, that we could chip away at the culture of fear that surrounds birth. It's fear that drives women to assume upfront that they will want and need pain relief. There's this myth that labor is The Worst Pain a Human Being Can Experience... I'm sure it is for some people, but I'd rank it as about as unpleasant as the stomach flu or bad menstrual cramps. Unfortunately, when you're sitting around swapping stories at a baby shower, "eh, it wasn't that bad" doesn't draw nearly as much attention as "it was so awful I was begging for death."

I'm probably being obnoxious again, so I'll stop here. Jo, here's hoping that soon you'll be holding a gorgeous baby and saying "eh, it wasn't that bad."

e

I so agree with you. I had one hospital birth (first one) and two home births. In retrospect I wish I had had the first one at home as well, because I so nearly ended up with an unnecessary caesarian as dictated by some MCP obstetrician who considered that I just wasn't trying hard enough to pass my son's 37cm head through my pelvic opening in the hospital-enforced time-frame.

I knew right from early preganncy that the most natural place to birth one's children was at home, I am a pretty independent-thinking person, yet I willingly placed myself in the hands of the hospital.

Even when I think back now, I really feel that there but for the wonderful support of my (male) midwife on that day, whispering encouraging, seditious nothings to us against the diktat of the doctor, I would never later have had two wonderful home births.

I just wish I'd kicked the bastard doctor in the teeth as he stood at the foot of my bed and threatened me in the third person with a Caesar unless I got my act together. I should at least have told to f**k off. I'd have had something to laugh about later.

Jo

Oh, Summer, hey wait a second, I goofed -- it was partly in response to that, but I didn't mean to sound critical of your point (and now I realize that I did, sorry!) -- change only comes when people advocate for it, and it's really important to do so. Yes yes yes. I agree absolutely.

And with this as well: "I wish, also, that we could chip away at the culture of fear that surrounds birth."

Me too. Me too.

expat

Nothing sends chills down my spine worse than hearing

"oh, I'm not going to use drugs or have any interventions, I'll squat for birth and be active and it will be wonderful...my OB is really lovely - no, I haven't talked to him about this yet, there's several weeks until I'm due"

And you can just HEAR the lovely OB saying things like "unless it's necessary" and "small pelvis" and "for the baby's safety", sharpening his scalpel all the while.

e

And just for the record, every one of my 3 labours was different -first 38 hours, second 21 hours, third, 4 hours- and the fastest one was also the most painful. Everybody labours differently, everyone is wired up differently, every labour is different.

Jamie

Jo, thank you for the link and the kind comments about my post.

I was out this morning with some crunchy friends and asked them, "If suddenly the US had the same midwife-OB ratio as the Netherlands, where a third of women opt for home birth, what do you think our home birth stats would be?" If someone could tease apart the reasons for the interventions in US births, I wonder what the breakdown would be -- how much of it is that women want intervention to limit pain and uncertainty? how much of it is a dearth of midwives trained in the wisdom of "Don't just do something -- stand there"? how much is the idea that poor outcomes mean someone should get sued?

I have no answers, just lots of questions. Well, actually, I have lots of questions and I have fighting children and I have only the vaguest idea of what dinner should be. So I should stop asking questions and get busy. Thanks for posting.

21stCenturyMom

It has been 17 years since I gave birth but when I read these stories I am riveted to the text and I feel completely bonded to the writers. You never, ever forget a single detail of giving birth - it is the most wondrous, remarkable, unforgettable experience a woman can have and it is tragic and wrong when a doctor intervenes to 'speed things up' or because they just don't feel like doing what the mother wants.

I read 'Spiritual Midwifery' cover to cover several times when I was pregnant the first time and I went into labor believing in my power and my strength, my choices and in my midwife. I had all 3 kids in a hospital for a reason I won't recount here but at that time hospitals were trying to be more accommodating and trying to offer a home birth type experience so it wasn't too bad. I chose not to take any drugs but my labors were very short so it was an easy choice to make. There is no telling what I would have done had I spent hours and hours in hard labor. I support every woman in whatever choice she makes about where and how to have a baby.

The births themselves were all fabulous. I looked forward to numbers 2 and 3 because the first went so well and put me on such a high.

Jo - I wish you a wonderful birth, free of any moments that leave you frightened or unsure. If you have read Spiritual Midwifery you will know what I mean when I say I hope your rushes are kind.

I can hardly wait to hear your birth story.

Mollie

I can't help it; I feel a bit shitty reading this post, like my having had a c-section in a hospital makes me a victim or something.

I had a wonderful birth experience, an empowered birth experience, and my home-birthin' doula thought so, too. But yeah, water broke days before, dilation only got so far, I tried every position in the book with the ball and the squatting and finally, agreed to the epidural just to see if I might progress with it. I did, but not enough, and the surgeon was called. He felt around, said the baby's head was not likely to fit (he didn't tell me what to decide, he just kind of shrugged and said, "Nope." At that point, I was actually glad to have a fast path to my kid, and said yes to surgery. The baby was not in distress, but after 3 days of "labour," I didn't want to wait for a crisis!).

I guess I'll always wonder what might have happened if I had done the home-birth-in-a-tub thing. Would I have miraculously birthed without any intervention? I spent a good eight hours at home after my water, clouded with meconium, gushed into the toilet. But my labour ceased, even right there in my home, and I could tell I was not on the "fast track." (Yes, we tried "nipple stimulation.") If it had been a firestorm, that would have been a lot easier in terms of decision-making.

Anyway, the rate for c-sections here in Victoria is the highest in Canada, I think. I try not to look back too much, just be eternally grateful for my daughter instead of worrying too much about the specifics of her arrival. I feel the same way about my wedding, 12 years ago. "I came home from lunch married," I say, when asked how it went.

I hope everything is blissful, smooth, healthy, and wonderful for you, Jo. I wish the same for anyone giving birth. But I don't like the lingering icky feeling I get about re-examining whether or not I got "railroaded" into a section. I didn't, from my perspective, but it seems I will be eternally suspect of being something akin to a slaughtered sheep.

Baaa.

Jo

See, Mollie, what you're saying is exactly what I was terrified of having happen when I posted about this. I was really hoping to avoid the placing-of-blame thing that seems to happen, anytime we (general) talk about different ways of doing things, about choices and big systems and our culture.

Something similar often happens when we (general) talk about breastfeeding: it's really hard to advocate for breastfeeding without alienating or hurting people who went on to formula-feed. That seems to happen regardless of intention. In this culture, we all end up feeling attacked. Maybe justifiably so.

I suspect that part of it does indeed have to do with the grander cultural setting for these discussions: it sets up opposition where there really shouldn't be any, it creates a binary system where either you're Natural or Unnatural, Safe or Throwing Caution to the Winds, whatever. I don't buy into that at all. It's the same kind of bullshit that keeps us, collectively, from working for any sort of real improvement, and leaves us as women to argue with each other, forever.

The fact is, interventions are tools. Sometimes we need to use tools to get the best outcome possible. We make informed decisions to use these tools, and that is a very good thing, to have these tools at our disposal. Cesarean births can be good, empowering things -- cesarean births save lives. Epidurals are an amazing tool, oh hell yes. These things most assuredly have their place, and from here, it looks like after a three-day labor, with meconium, with lack of progress, that would be the place to use that tool. I can't say what would have happened; nobody can. But I can say that I most likely would have made a similar decision in that place. Not that that matters in the least here. What matters is that you, Mollie, you say you had a good, empowering experience. And I remember being so thrilled for you, so moved, when I read about it.

Do you feel I am suggesting you (and everyone else) got railroaded into it, or is that something you get from the world at large? If it's from me, I apologize. That's not what I wanted to do here, and certainly not what I believe. I'm sorry I left you feeling icky.

So how can we, general we, talk about these issues without hurting people? I don't know. I'm open to suggestion.

fisherwife

Posting before reading comments...

A good book I read was Misconceptions (sorry, don't know the underline feature), anyhoo, it is a good place to start afterward. You know, when you don't get what you want and need to deal with the feelings you have.

I never had the dream of birth that I wanted. It really wasn't possible in two of my experiences. I could've gone natural all the way the second time if I had been more assertive. My doctor wanted to manage my situation, not only for him, but for my well being. I trusted him, and it turned out to be pretty great anyway, even if it wasn't drug-free.

My mother (who birthed four, three of them drug-free) told me it's overrated. "Don't be a hero" she said. Just her saying that gave me permission this last time to give myself a break. It turns out it wasn't necessary...I had a c-section. Apparently my babies like to come breech, in a face first position. I just wasn't up for the excruciating back labor and trauma to my pelvis. I'm happy with my decision as I hold my lovely little one. We both recovered so quickly that I am sure we did the right thing for us.

As I have been reading your posts, I have been praying for you, Jo. Cause even with all the knowledge in the world about labor things can go awry. If you end up having to go to a hospital, try not to feel bad about it. As long as you are both safe and healthy afterwards, call it all success.

fisherwife

I just realized that last sentence sounds all self-righteous. I didn't mean it that way at all. I just remember before my first I thought things would be a certain way and when they weren't the shock and trauma went on for a year or so.

A.

Your posts make me so melancholy. I'm so happy for you and so jealous of your homebirth. My first baby was born in a hospital, super-fast labor. My second was born in the most perfect homebirth imaginable. My third was born at home and the birth itself was fine, but in the moments afterward, everyone realized that while the wheel might have said I was 37.5 weeks - and although my son was over 7 pounds -- he was most decidedly 36 weeks and NOT breathing well. To the hospital via ambulance, to be treated like pond scum in the NICU for 11 days.... not a route I recommend. Now, I'm pg with #4, and because I carry low and because there's a good chance this one'll come early, I figured I should be proactive and choose the doc/hospital where I'll be, rather than hold out for the slim hope of a homebirth and be blindsided at the end. It makes me nuts. Especially every time I go for an OB appt to sit for an hour and then see the doc for less than 10 minutes. Other way around at the midwife's office. But fortunately, this is my 4th baby and I KNOW WHAT I WANT. And I think (hope) I've learned how to comminicate that forcefully enough to the hospital staff. I have talked to my OB and she is good at listening and respecting, so I hope it all goes well. As I'm sure yours will!

beaver girl

So depressed about this lately because I'll be induced at 40 weeks for diet-controlled GDM. I know that pitocin will very likely ruin my chances for unmedicated water birth. I feel like crawling off and giving birth under a bush somewhere. And I'm with the most liberal CNM's in the city. To find someone more open I'd have to leave the state. So depressing.

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