Something you should probably know about me: I get real squeamish around anything medical.
I don’t like hospitals. I don’t like feeling like a patient. I didn’t like watching ER, back in the day. I would try to watch, because, you know, Mr. Clooney. But, I’d be caught off guard, every episode, by some bodily fluid spraying out. GROSS.
Many of my family members work in hospitals. I plug my ears when they share medical stories at the dinner table.
When it comes to medication, I’ve always erred on the side of less is more. You’ve all seen the commercials where the list of possible side effects sounds far worse than the things the medicine is supposed to treat.
And, I pretty much blacked out during health class. Too much information about the inner workings of my body.
All that said, I’m not sure if that made me a more, or less, likely candidate for natural childbirth.
But eventually my first pregnancy got to the point that I could no longer ignore that this baby was exiting my body, whether I liked it or not. So I decided to educate myself on childbirth, using the six resources I mention in this post, plus lots of stories of woman with positive birth experiences. (Sign up to follow the blog and you will get an alert when the rest of the series is added).
Below are the reasons I found in favor of natural childbirth. Some are fact based, some are preference based. This list was enough to encourage me to make natural childbirth Plan A.
A 32% US Cesarean Rate, According to the CDC:
Really?! So one third of woman are now incapable of safely delivering their baby? Bull Sh*t. There are scenarios where a cesarean is most definitely life saving for mom and baby, but there were two instances I was not comfortable with: medical interventions that lead to a cesarean (more on that later), and doctors and mothers that casually consider a cesarean a modern option for any inconvenient pregnancy issue. I’ve heard stories of mothers scheduling cesareans so they could pick a special date, chose their time off based on work schedules or visitors being in town, because they are told their baby is to big on the ultrasound, because they don’t want to push, because they had a c-section before, because a woman has a small-frame she is told she will have trouble pushing out a baby, or just generally because labor is not progressing and the mom is getting too tired. The list goes on. I can’t understand why these are sufficient reasons to under go major surgery. 32% was very discouraging to me. I needed to arm myself with the best possible scenario for avoiding becoming part of this statistic.
One Medical Intervention Often Leads to Another:
Many women that are part of that 32% cesarean rate, don’t enter the hospital thinking that will be their fate. They have the best intentions to labor and deliver vaginally. But then the realities of modern medicine intervene.
1. An epidural is administered for pain management, labor slows down because your body no longer feels the natural sensations, nurses administer pitocin (almost 30% of births use pitocin or other induction methods) to speed up labor which causes contractions to intensify (mom often doesn’t notice because she’s had the epidural), baby starts to go in to distress because of the unnatural intensity and frequency of these super contractions, the babies heart rate spikes to unsafe levels, mom is taken in for an emergency c-section to save the baby.
2. A mother is at, or past, her due date so an induction is scheduled. The doctors try to artificially start and progress labor, which can lead to the same scenario described above.
Again, cesareans are a great option to have when things go wrong, but if the medical interventions used to speed labor ultimately lead to the cesarean, we are a victim of our own medical side effect commercial. Medical intervention comes with side effects, and I didn’t like the course that those interventions could put me on. So I chose to avoid step one, the epidural, in hopes of avoiding the other interventions.
I Wanted Support, Not Ulterior Motives, Driving My Birth Decisions:
Many hospitals have standards about how quickly you need to progress in labor before they offer ways to intervene – for your benefit, of coarse.
And, most doctors will only be there for the last few minutes before baby arrives, leaving you to labor alone or intermittently with a nurse.
I knew labor would be difficult, and possibly scary. As a woman you really have no idea what it will feel like. You don’t get a practice run. I knew I wanted a support system that would be there with me for the challenging parts, and keep me calm. I figured the best way to do that would be to hire a midwife. Because the majority of midwives regularly attend natural births, I felt comfortable trusting my midwife during the birth process. You would never hire a coach that hasn’t regularly achieved that outcome you want. That would be silly. Why would I leave my intentions of a natural birth to someone that doesn’t regularly do it, nor encourage it?
I initially looked for a doula to come alongside my OB-GYN, but found that most were more than I had to spend. Fortunately, I ended up finding a midwife that was approved to deliver at my hospital (I live in Orange County, CA – not some small town, and astonishingly there was still just one midwife approved to deliver at my hospital, at that time). This meant insurance would cover it. I got the best of both worlds: an experienced and encouraging coach and doctor, in a hospital setting in case any issues came up.
I Didn’t Want to Feel Like a Patient:
As I explained, I don’t like medical stuff, which includes feeling like a patient. By forgoing the epidural I was able to wear my own clothes (no paper hospital gown), walk around the room, try any position I wanted to find comfort during contractions, soak in the bathtub in my hospital room, eat and drink, push in any position I wanted (instead of flat on my back – which actually makes your pelvis more narrow), and generally deal with the pain on my own terms with a trained and encouraging support partner.
Labor and delivery was hard work, but I felt like my body was doing something powerful and natural. I was not damaged goods, waiting for a doctor to make me better.
Your body is not a lemon. Our creator is not careless. Your body was made for this.
Come back for the rest of the series – my natural birth story, and mentally preparing for my upcoming delivery of baby two. (Sign up to follow the blog and you will get an alert when the rest of the series is added).
Note: my intention is not to shame anyone that has had a different birth experience from mine. My intent is to provide a positive example of what birth can be, in spite of what most of us are exposed to about child birth in the United States. Educate yourself so you can feel comfortable with your own decisions.