Monday, August 24, 2015

Reader Q&A: What Kind of Birth is Right For Me?

A few weekends ago, I traveled to North Carolina to be with a friend that I have the privilege of calling a lifelong friend, for her after-the-fact wedding reception (she was married out of the country, and was celebrating with a reception in NC). The friend I mentioned above is currently pregnant with her first baby, and we were talking about birth for a little while. She was asking about my experiences with birth, and she asked me what I thought about it.... for her. "What kind of birth is right, for me?" she asked. She's a blog reader (and informed me that so is her sister, hooray!), so even though we already talked about it in person, I'm going to answer her question here!

Q: What kind of birth is "right"? In what direction should I go if I'm on the fence about the whole "birth" thing? Are you "hardcore" about doing birth a certain way, and should I be?

A: This is a very, very good question. Birth.... it's a tough subject, but I feel like I have had enough experience with different types of birth to be able to speak somewhat intelligently about this subject. Which type of birth is "right," for me?

Well, it might surprise you to know that I'm not hardcore anything when it comes to giving birth. Granted, I have had three out of four naturally, so one would think I'm pretty serious about going naturally, and I am, but I think the only time in my life I have been SERIOUS about it was after my first birth, going into my second. A few of my close friends had had these gorgeous, peaceful home births that they had photographed and framed. You know? The ones where you think... I want to give birth for fun. Just because it looks so nice in the pictures. (lol and hahaha and all of that;)

But birth can be like that.

It can be peaceful, it can be still. It can be so beautiful it hurts, in an incredible way. It can be silent. (But it probably will not *really* be like that, unless you are like a Christian Science weirdo or in a silent birthing cult). 

Soooo.... home birth? Natural in the hospital? Epidural? Drugs/stadol? In the car/on the stairs/ in the elevator?

What kind of birth is right for you?

First and foremost, my overall opinion is: You can plan it, but you can't control it, and so, no one can tell you what is right for you right now.

If I had it to do over again, I don't honestly think I would change a thing.  Molly's epidural? Frances almost-giving-birth-in-the-car and being born 20 minutes after stepping foot in a hospital room? Madeleine's dreamy-home-birth in which Stephen caught her? Anders' middle-of-the-night natural hospital birth?

All. good.

In fact, perfecto. If I had to do it over again, I might still be as scared as I was with Molly, and so I might not have done the first one naturally. Just being perfectly honest here.

I know this isn't very good advice, but it's exactly what I told my lifelong friend, one of my dearest. And so it's what I'll tell you, too. :-)  Go with your gut. ;)

Now it is important to get a lot of well-rounded advice and have your own, personal Birth Plan in place. It can be complicated, but remember, that the more complex it is for you, your midwife, and/or your doctor, the more pressure and added fear there might be. If you have a bad birth experience, it might dissuade you from the desire for more.

On the other hand, you can't make it your safe game plan either. What are you going to do when you feel your water break? Wait for the epidural? No. You need to prepare a whole lot more than that for a smooth and really peaceful experience.

But I truly believe that having a Birth Plan, and keeping the Birth Plan simple, is so important. One doula told me I should write down my top five desired standards for the Birth Plan, such as this: "Freedom of movement, low lights and soothing music, candles, a shower or bath partway through, little to no intervention.." This can really add a lot to your birth without the needless stress of a long and complicated one.

Having freedom of movement as a requirement at the outset made my most recent birth with Anders, two years and one month ago, possibly much easier and better.  I have given birth twice standing up, once on my haunches, and once on my back.  For Anders, I was standing next to a table, outside of the bathroom, and with some heavy inhalations, I felt a strong urge and desire to push.  I would not have been able to give birth the way I wanted if I had not put that in the written Birth Plan. If you are trying to do a certain type of birth in the hospital, these little requirements can make or break it for you.

A gentle birth desired? If you have your water broken, as I did with Molly, labor can quickly escalate into a necessity for epidural, because you had intervention that made labor speed up, become very convenient, but also needlessly painful for you. That is more the nature of on-your-back laboring. If your water breaks naturally, that means it was time for the water to break.  When my water broke with Frances, I was lying down, and it was painful. I still had to journey down the stairs, into the car, and into the hospital before she was born. When my water broke with Anders and Madeleine, it was right before I pushed them out!  Why are epidurals sometimes painful (or even, in my experience, even much more painful than natural)? Because the natural rhythm is disrupted, simple as that! Intervention happens primarily, or at least sometimes, so that the Doctors can make it to their kid's baseball game (True story from my own experience!).  This can cause your contractions to not only speed up but happen one on top of the other, before the time for the epidural. That can hurt needlessly.  Not all epidural experiences unfold the way mine did, though, I'm sure of that. No two births are the same, ever. They are all unique, like our babies!

Go with your gut and remember this isn't set in stone. But spend some time in prayer about it. The really important thing to remember is that this is is for this time, in this place, right now, for this baby. God has put leadership in your life: you can and should really trust His doing and His knowing. Don't think about the past, don't think about the future. Don't think about birth experts in various extreme positions on the birth spectrum, perhaps trying to persuade you to do a certain thing. Just think about now, and your baby, this baby. Don't think about your fear or your specific fears. Don't think about the negatives.

Practice shredding fear by doing a few specific things: don't talk about fear, unless you're in counseling... don't think about fear, unless you're in counseling... don't give into the weight of your fears, unless you're in counseling! I have a trusted counselor specifically for my own anxieties. I try to even limit how much I talk to my husband about my anxieties because it is just so much better and more healthy for me to talk to a professional about it. Dwelling on- or obsessing about- one certain aspect of your birth going Wrong, or even "your way," might cause unneeded stress and you guessed it... a big ol' mess. ;)

Especially if this is your first, or your first in a long time. Especially if you are dealing with complications- be they big or small.  Of course talk it over with your husband or sweetheart. You should process with your significant other. Birth can be overwhelming. Impending birth always is! Even for the people who look amazing in their (natural, home birth) birthing shoots! Now I'm dealing with - or have dealt with- one of the biggest hardships in the birth world: my first breech baby. And so, if she flips from her pretty, vertex, head down back to breech before her impending arrival, I may be dealing with a variety of scenarios. Will I add C-section to my list of birth experiences? I hope not, but I could. But that is okay. Really! It is!

Why? It leads into my first, last, and best advice?  Trust.

Trust yourself.
Trust God.
Trust the people who are in leadership in your life, right now- your husband, your friends, your midwife, and your doctors.

Trust. Even when it is so, so incredibly hard and you're packing for the hospital, wondering in the back of your mind if things aren't going to go "your way." It might not.

Trust your instincts, pray a lot, and look to the leaders God has place in your life. I hope and pray that it will be fine- just fine!

And I say that not because I think everything will be perfect and smooth, but because that is the mindset you need and will definitely want when it is time to give birth. Fear - they will tell you in ALL of the very best natural birthing books and websites- is definitely never, ever, ever your friend.

Fear of all the little details? Aside from your very simple birth plan? Leave that to the professionals. ;)

just. trust.God.

Trust him with complications.
Trust him with money.
Trust him with problems.
Trust him with your pains.
Trust him with your regrets.
Trust him with

And you'll look around, and look in the mirror, and you'll be a trusting, peaceful person.
And trust me.... you'll have a beautiful, beautiful birth.
Trust in the God who created you, and who created this baby!

This baby, who looks half like you and half like your husband. 
This baby, who, once his or her lungs are formed would cry- no matter if he or she were 4 pounds or 7 pounds or 10 pounds. 
This baby, whose heart is beating 18 days after conception.  
This baby, that you have a name for.

Remember that this baby inside of you, this unborn babe is a gift, and a human being... not a jumble of random tissue.

Labor and delivery should be seen as a beautiful gift, untainted by a lack of trust, untainted by fear, untainted as much as possible from all that would hinder it... as well.

If what I have said makes you upset in anyway, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Do not despair if you've had a bad experience and have doubts about future births. I referenced my own journey in counseling to encourage you that we all have regrets and fears, and no two births can be compared to each other, and in all of them, God is and was in control.

Adding my link to the ACWB


Corinne said...

" Intervention happens primarily, or at least sometimes, so that the Doctors can make it to their kid's baseball game "

The first OB practice I went to when I was pregnant with my first baby (and I waited til I was like... 5 months along before going to see a doctor =D ) the OB-GYN said, "We might take him a couple weeks early, because I'll be out of town on a golf trip on your due-date." No smile, no chuckle, no hint of a joke.
Me? No smile, no chuckle, but when I walked out that door I sure as heck wasn't going back.


What, was he stupid? Doesn't he know that babies need all the time they can get for development? Is his golf schedule that much more important than the physical and mental well-being of my child? Seriously, if that isn't a red flag, I don't know what is.

Tacy said...

Yeah. That mode of thinking is so opposed to midwifery and from my perspective, it sounds so crazy.