Friday, January 2, 2009

People fear what they don't understand

This is all in regards to birthing babies.

First off, there are homebirths. Though my mom had a homebirth with my sister, and I was there to witness it and still haven't forgotten it to this day, it was her worst birth experience. SO when my brother came around, she opted to have my brother at the hospital. Also, in recent media, everything you hear about homebirths is negative. So I will admit, when my sister-in-law said she was going to have a homebirth with her first child, James, 3 years ago, I was anything but enthusiatic or supportive. (Sorry, Melissa....the truth comes out.) Sure, outwardly I was, but inwardly, I thought she was taking risks that weren't worth taking, and that she was shunning modern medical practices that are in place to save mothers and babies from pain, complications, and even death. James' birth experience was rough. Melissa was anemic and had some other complications. I chalked this up to not having birthed him in a hospital where these things could have easily been "avoided" or "fixed." So then when she decided to have her second child, Emily, at home, I really thought she was throwing caution to the wind. My attitude was, well, didn't she learn from James' birth? Why would she do that again? But Emily's birth was a piece of cake compared to James'. In fact, Melissa was up bopping around her house when we came to see them only 8 hours after Emily was born. You never would have guessed she had just had a baby!

One reason Melissa opted for a homebirth was to be in her own environment and away from all the routine checks and interruptions of a hospital. Since I had my two older kids in hospitals befoe Melissa's kids came along, I didn't even think about the interruption aspect of it. Seth's birth required a lot of constant monitoring, since I had just about every complication in the book, and I was induced at 36 1/2 weeks. Joy was a scheduled induction (that I now know was NOT medically necessary, as I was led to believe....but that's another story), so everything went totally by-the-book. It was fast and really easy, as births go, and so I didn't feel intruded upon there either.

But when I went to the hospital in early labor with Skye, I did have that thought in the back of my mind. And as the night wore on, while the nurses definitely had my best interests and wishes to labor naturally in mind, I barely slept the entire night. They had to take my vitals every 4 hours, replenish my IV antibiotic every 6, check the contraction monitors every few hours, not to mention coming in and recommending this technique and that technique to move labor along all night long. By the time my mom arrived at 10 the following morning, I was exhausted. She could see it on my face, and it was one of the first things she pointed out to me upon her arrival. By the time I checked out of the hospital, I had HUGE bags under my eyes, and all I did my first 2 days home was catch up on sleep. I now wonder, if I had opted for a homebirth, if I would have needed 2 days of round-the-clock sleep when I got home.

While I still don't think I would ever opt for a homebirth for myself, I now certainly understand why women do it. Not to mention, in other countries all over the world, women birth babies at home everyday. Hospitals aren't an option. And these women make it through, without all the checks and sterilizations. Sure, I can't deny that mother and infant death rates are higher in most of these countries, but most make out it unscathed.

Which is a great segway to my next point: unmedicated childbirth. With Seth, all extenuating circumstances that called for medications aside, I was also terrified of the pain of childbirth. Plain and simple, I am a wimp. I whine about every little ache and pain. So I had determined that there was no possible way I could tolerate the pain of childbirth. I never wanted an epidural (needles terrify me, and the idea of one in my spine....eew), but I did want something. I knew that before I ever felt a contraction. Though I made it through his birth without much pain medication, I did opt for a few doses. With Joy, I also opted for medication once I felt that first really big contraction, that first glimmer of, "Oh my gosh, can I handle this?" But the stuff made me so dizzy, I had to labor with my eyes closed, and even after she made her way into the world, I could barely look at her at first without the room spinning. And then my stomach was queasy until the following morning.

So when it came time to decide on a birth plan for Skye's birth, I decided, "What the heck? Why not see if I can do it?" And I did it! And it was BY FAR the best experience of them all!! It was the most painful, and the most intense, and there were moments I doubted my choice, but in the end, I emerged feeling the most accomplished and fulfilled. I found a strength within myself - of body and of mind - that I didn't know existed before then. I am so glad I did it, and I would recommend it to anyone. I truly believe - unless you have medical needs that require induction or cesarean deliveries - that any woman is capable of it, and I think too many women rob themselves of the opportunity because they don't research it; much like me with Melissa's homebirths, they write it off as unattainable.

So women, listen up. You CAN do it!! If the pain of childbirth was too much to bear, none of us would be here today, because our ancestral women would have given up on having babies altogether. Give yourself some credit - you are a strong person, stronger than you could ever know, and natural childbirth is the greatest gift you could give yoursef; its pain with payoff - the greatest payoff one could imagine.

I truly believe that we women sell ourselves short. We believe, in all circumstances, that modern, mainstream practices are the best. We're like sheep that follow the crowd and never question whether it is right for us as an individual. We don't research things, we don't talk to people who have actually done these things. We rest our opinions on the negatives that the media feeds us, and we assume that these are long-lost practices that no longer have their place today; that only renegade earth-muffins practice such things. Its not the "norm," so it must not be accepted, respected, or considered.

Okay....getting off my soapbox now.


Liberty said...

Has my mom read this one yet? :D

Great post! :)

Joyful_Momma said...

Now I have! ;)
Very good post Megan. I challenge you now to open your mind to the idea that childbirth is not painful, intense? yes, painful? no. Read Grantly Dick-Read's book Childbirth Without Fear.

After giving birth six times, only once with an epidural and once with a dose of stadol and the others with nothing including two inductions and two posterior,I never thought I would say that childbirth is painless.

After Sara I have changed my mind. Her birth was painless, except for once or twice when I tensed my muscles during a contraction. It was most definitely intense and it is easy to see how that intense of sensation is interpretted as pain by nearly all women, especially those who birth in the hospital.

Just wanted to throw that out there for your consideration. ;)

Megan said...

I definitely think of it more as intense than painful. Hence the reason I got through it, and believe any woman can, if she were just to trust her own body and instincts.

Anyway, preaching to the choir... ;)