Fabulous-- week 2 of being back at blogging, and I'm a morning late. In my defense, the yarn for my spring collection arrived yesterday, and I spent nap time (aka, Mama's Work Time) knitting furiously rather than blogging.
Besides, what better topic to talk about first thing in the morning than child birth, right?
First thing you should know: I.hate.needles. To the point that, no kidding, my first reason for investigating unmedicated childbirth was to avoid needles. I remember talking about it with a friend of mine shortly after John and I got married, and she told me about another friend who had delivered her last child as a waterbirth. I was intrigued-- supposedly the waterbirth was a lot less painful than a regular unmedicated vaginal birth. I like water (a lot), so, hey, nothing to lose right?
After John and I got pregnant, I started doing my research. What exactly does it mean to have a natural, unmedicated birth? What is waterbirth? We watched the Business of Being Born, and I was off in a whirlwind of learning everything I could about childbirth. I read mommy blogs; I watched documentaries; I devoured Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. What started out as a fear of needles quickly became a passion: God designed a woman's body to grow and bear children, and, while that process is marred by sin (resulting in pain, complications, etc.), it is a natural, beautiful experience. I'm not saying that every woman with a sound doctrine of creation must have a natural birth, but I did become convinced that 1) the fear women have of birth is a lie-- perhaps even part of the curse of sin. I would love for all women, however they choose to deliver, to be able to birth without fear. And, 2) unmedicated waterbirth was the best choice for me and for Jem.
When people find out I gave birth without any sort of pain medication, they generally react some level of horror. When they realize that I did it on purpose, I'm pretty sure the general consensus is that I'm insane. Then there are some answers to common questions:
Yes, I gave birth in a hospital.
Yes, I would have (and did) accepted medical interventions that kept us safe.
Yes, Jem came out underwater.
No, he was not in danger of drowning.
The tub was about 3 1/2 feet deep and 5 feet across.
Yes, John was in the water with me (and, yes, he wore pants. (No, I don't know why that's a question either)).
Yes, it hurt. No, it was not unbearable.
Yes, I would do it again.
More questions? Maybe I should start at the beginning:
Jem was due on December 18th. At my midwife appointment a couple of days before, I was slightly dilated, had my membranes swept, and was told labor was imminent. A week and a half of waiting later, on Christmas Eve, we thought something might finally be happening (Don't even get me going on all the false/early labor I had. Weeks and weeks of it. If you aren't sure if you're in labor, you are not alone. I was a wreck more than once simply because I was so frustrated by not knowing if it was time or not!). We had dinner with my parents and some friends; we went to the Christmas Eve service at church. By the end of the service (around 10pm), my contractions were just a few minutes apart. We had been at this point before (several times, actually), and the standard advice I had been given was to go to bed and see if the contractions kept going thru the night. But, no, I had done that and had them stop, and I wanted to have this BABY ALREADY. We ended up checking into the hospital at 1am where, of course, the first thing they did was convince me to take an Ambien to try to sleep (I had been awake for about 23 hours). I sort of slept, but it mostly just made Jem sleepy so that I spent most of my labor looking like this:
Once Jem finally woke up, though, they released me from the fetal monitor and let me walk around the maternity ward to encourage my contractions. Now, my contractions never became very regular--to the point that the nurse and midwife almost tried to send me home a couple of times, but then found that I was still dilating. Best I can tell, this and a couple other things were the result of me having soooo much pre-/early labor. My body started this process tired and was thus rather inefficient about the whole thing.
After 18 hours in the hospital (it's now about 7pm on Christmas), my water broke just as we were ready to have it broken. This is when the fun really began. All of a sudden, those contractions HURT a lot more. Until then, I could close my eyes and breathe/ lightly moan through my contractions without too much trouble. All of a sudden, I was mooing like a cow from somewhere down in my toes. They took one more 30 minute fetal strip, the tossed me in the tub (for the second time. I had labored in the tub for 90 blissful minutes during the afternoon). As I started feeling pushy (aka, started losing my mind), I remember thinking, "Well, it's too late for drugs now."
I pushed for a little over an hour before Jem was born. If John hadn't been in the tub, I likely would have drowned. Keeping one's head above water is not a high priority when mid-contraction, apparently. He held on to me and made deep, low sounds for me to imitate as I pushed. Mom and the midwife reassured me over and over again when I simply felt too tired to keep going. Yes, I screamed as he crowned, though the scream seems more etched in my mind than John's or Mom's--the focus of the moment was that head full of hair entering the world. And the next moment, he was with us!
We basked in the awesomeness of the moment for a few minutes, then John cut the cord and cuddled Jem on the couch while I was fished out of the tub and delivered the placenta. Here's the part about medical interventions I alluded to: because I had been in labor for so long, my body was more tired than it has ever been, and my uterus had trouble contracting down to stop the blood flow where the placenta had torn away. Basically, I had a moderate hemorrhage. While I wouldn't say I was on death's door or anything (they didn't even give me an IV, thank goodness, because n.e.e.d.l.e.s.), it was serious. I was given two drugs, one of which was a shot of pitocin, to help me contract (during which, Mama had to promise me ice cream to distract me. Did I mention I hate shots? She was good to her word and brought me a smoothie the next morning). I share this, because, for me, an unmedicated birth meant not being induced with drugs or receiving pain medication. I had no problem receiving medications (like the Ambien early in labor or the pitocin afterward) that were intended to make me as healthy as possible to take care of my baby.
We had an amazing "golden hour" in the birth room before transferring to post-partum. At one point the midwife came in with a laugh and asked if anyone had weighed Jem yet. "No, but can we??" I begged. I had been told all through my pregnancy that I would have a small baby, "7 pounds, tops." (I gained 40 pounds while pregnant--I had some serious doubts that my baby would be so small). Sure enough, Jem was 8 lbs 15 oz, and I may have overheard a nurse or two express surprise that I, a pretty petite woman, could manage to deliver a baby of that size and not need stitches. I guess these wide hips paid off. ;-)
The bottom line?
Birth is beautiful. It's earthy, messy, a "blow your hair back experience," and beautiful.
Adventure well; Live fully.
(Note: None of the links in this blog benefit me financially in any way--I just wanted to make it easier for y'all to access some resources I found helpful.)
(Also, I'm young-- like 23, people-are-still-surprised-that-I'm-married-and-more-than-one-stranger-implied-that-I-was-a-teen-pregnancy young. That meant that my odds for an uncomplicated birth and easier recovery were really good. Always talk to your doctor or midwife to choose the safest birthing plan for you and your little one).