Saturday, October 01, 2011

A birth plan: Apparently I have a lot to say on the subject!

When it came to deciding my ‘birth plan’ with Andrew, the only real criteria I had (or, what I hoped to adhere to if ‘all went according to plan’) was no c-section (definitely my worst case scenario), no epidural, and that I wanted to give birth in hospital.  Beyond that, I didn’t really prepare anything for the labour.  James and I took a prenatal class and we were given all sorts of tips, such as ways to sway back and forth while holding your partner during contractions, breathing techniques, massage, music, etc. 

I’m sort of glad I didn’t bother to focus on any of those things within my ‘birth plan.’  I figured I’d just ‘go with the flow’ when the time came, and I’d know what I wanted to do then.  As it happened, I didn’t want to be holding onto anyone, let alone swaying back and forth while holding them, during my labour.  Actually, I remember at one point when I was probably only a couple of hours away from giving birth, my midwife held onto me during a contraction, and while there was nothing wrong with that per se, it felt uncomfortable in a way.  And I would have felt the same if it had been my husband with his arms around me, it wasn’t because it was my midwife!  While I appreciated greatly having people in the room who cared about me (James, my mom, my midwife, and a great nurse – even though I’d never met the nurse before, she was awesome), I didn’t really want to be touched!  Ultimately I felt *I* was the only one who could go through and fully experience what my body was doing, and I had to ride with it the only way that I could.

So swaying back and forth was replaced in early labour with basically dropping to my knees and riding out the contraction on all fours, quite often leaning over the chaise part of our couch.  Once I was in hospital, my midwife helped me get undressed and into a warm bath.  Which seemed like an OK idea at the time, but I realized quite quickly that not only is a water birth NOT for me, neither is soaking in a tub AT ALL while having contractions.  I just didn’t feel relaxed, and I hated knowing that eventually I was going to have to try to get myself out of there, dried off, and back to the bed.  Which was complicated for me by the fact that my contractions were only about one minute apart for much of my labour.  That didn’t leave me with much time to try to get sorted and in a new place for more contractions!

Once I was in the bed, I just wanted to stay put laying on my back.  It was recommended I be on all fours as it would be more ‘natural’ birthing baby in a position where he or she could more easily drop down.  I couldn’t even sit up long enough to get through a contraction to try to move so I said NO, I was staying put as I was.  And I did.  I gave birth to Andrew on my back, with people holding my legs back.  It worked like a charm.  After 10 zillion contractions and the most ridiculous pain I’ve ever experienced, I popped Andrew out after just 10 minutes of pushing! 

I did not sway back and forth with my partner, I did not use any special breathing techniques, although I did breathe in some ‘laughing gas’ for part of my labour, not that it made me laugh AT ALL…I didn’t enjoy any massage because there’s NO WAY I’d have wanted it, it certainly wouldn’t have helped with the pain in my opinion.  I also didn’t bring music to listen to, but knowing what I’m like I also don’t think music would have been a good thing for me.  Especially when I’m going through something or in a particular mood, music would have to be ‘just so’ for me, and one wrong song could really set me off!  Better to just be focusing on what I’m going through than to have those types of ‘distractions.’

Instead, I stared out the window of room 14 in the maternity ward of St. Paul’s hospital and focused on the brick of the building.  And I also found myself shaking my left leg during contractions!  I imagine it could have looked like I was having a seizure or something, well not to the severity of a full blown seizure, but just insofar as it would appear as though my leg was moving involuntarily!  I remember being in the throws of a contraction and my leg moving with it, and James asking my midwife if it was ‘normal’ that I was doing that!  LOL  It just seemed like second nature to me, which is interesting given I’ve never done anything like that before!  My midwife said certainly not everyone does that but people do often do some sort of behaviour to sort of detract from the pain they’re feeling.  I didn’t care if it was normal or not, I had to do it so I did!

I feel that while I had no idea truly what the intensity of the pain would be, my labour/birthing experience was everything I could have hoped for, and more really.  It was 8 hours from start to finish, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my next time around, come next April/early May – eeeek! – will be that length or perhaps a little shorter…Here’s hoping!  I feel fortunate to have had a relatively ‘short’ labour (although it felt very long at the time) because I was less inclined to go with more ‘severe’ medical interventions since I wasn’t in agony as long as I could have been!

Which is not to say, of course, that there are not a plethora of reasons why medical interventions can be necessary, or desired, or what have you.  I don’t begrudge any woman their right to choose whatever method of birthing they prefer, or to go whatever route they have to simply for the safety of their baby. 

I just get annoyed when some people will act as if women who want to have as natural a birth as possible are somehow trying to be ‘martyrs.’  I am feeling particularly frustrated by that statement after reading this blog post about a woman who’s not into natural childbirth.   I don’t have a problem with women wanting to go any route but natural, that’s their choice.  I even knew a woman who had a c-section planned practically from the moment she found out she was pregnant because she was terrified of the idea of having even one contraction!  She nearly died of a heart attack while getting prepped for the c-section (seriously, I’m not exaggerating) because she was so wrought up about that procedure too, but for her it was the lesser of two evils.  So she went with it.  Would I have chosen that for myself?  Never in a million years.  But I don’t think less of her for doing it, it was her choice!

I just don’t get how it can be considered that a woman choosing to ‘go natural’ is somehow attempting to enter martyrdom for it.  I personally DO understand the argument that if you’d take Tylenol for a headache, why wouldn’t you take pain meds for the most excruciating pain possible, also known as labour and birthing?!  I do get that argument.  But I still choose natural where possible (with a little ‘cheat’ using some laughing gas – which honestly I do not believe to be terribly awful given with one non-gas breath, it leaves your system entirely).  I did have a half dose of a drug called Phentynol that basically just made me slightly drowsy (it was meant to calm me a bit because I was at a point where I was just a little freaked by the pain).  I would choose not to get that this time around, if possible, because while perhaps it calmed my nerves slightly, it surely did nothing for the pain, which ultimately is what I would have LOVED to have numbed!

And I KNOW I do have that option of numbing it with an epidural.  And if I’m having a severely long labour that just seems more debilitating than anything, I would consider going that route.  But I would do everything in my power to tough it out and just labour without it.  (Of course, other circumstances notwithstanding – for example if for some reason I had to be induced, there’s a good chance I’d get an epidural, since induction often causes more painful contractions…although in all honesty I don’t know how they could get more painful than the ones I felt!)

I would personally prefer as natural a birth as possible because I think it’s the safest route to go for myself and my baby.  There are always going to be less likelihood of negative side effects if you’re not putting something into your system that comes with a list of possible negative side effects.  And while I hated feeling the pain of the contractions, their severity, I also ‘enjoyed’ (maybe more so after the fact, but still!) having been able to feel ‘everything.’  I read an article recently in McLean’s magazine in part about how women push for too long, often because they get an epidural and keep pushing but shouldn’t because their labour is slowed due to the drug, and they should wait and just push near the end.  (I’m not doing that article justice in putting it in such lame terms, but I don’t feel the need to go into a summary of it here!)  One thing I did do, because my waters never broke, was to have my midwife break them for me.  I was given the option of that, or waiting for it to happen on its own.  It would have been a longer labour to wait, so I said, ‘Break ‘em!’ even though apparently it would be painful to have it done.  (I didn’t find it any more painful than the rest of it!)  As soon as the waters gushed out, I felt a very strong urge to push, I did, and like I said, I birthed my first born son 10 minutes later.  I was told it might take another hour, but I was determined to meet my baby sooner than that!  I was DONE!

I felt every bit of my labour and the crowning, Andrew coming out of me.  It was excruciating, yes, but it was also beautiful, and I liked that I didn’t feel restricted afterwards.  I know someone women who get epidurals say they are up and walking around half an hour after giving birth, and that’s AWESOME for those women, but I personally dislike the risk of feeling numb for some time after.  I also worry greatly about how epidurals *may* be involved with breastfeeding issues, first latches going well, the fact that baby could be in distress during the delivery.  I know for many women none of these things become issues, but knowing there is the POTENTIAL for these issues scares me away enough from the medical interventions that I’d rather experience all the pain that labour and birthing has to offer.

It’s my take on it, it’s not for everyone, and that’s OK.  It will be interesting to find out how this labour goes, to know how similar or how different my birthing experiences will be when compared.  I got pretty lucky with Andrew, in the sense of zero complications and an absolutely perfect baby who has grown into an absolutely perfect toddler.  Baby#2 has a lot to live up to!  But I’m going to remain as confident as possible that he or she will do it all and more!

It’s only ‘natural’ for any mother or mother-to-be to fear the worst and hope for the best.  We all have that in common.  I think my fears this time around, aside from just knowing I have to experience those contractions – though it helps knowing I got through it with Andrew, so I should be able to get through it just fine a second time around! – are the usual concerns, such as hoping the umbilical cord isn’t wrapped improperly during birthing, or that the baby isn’t breech and therefore at risk of a c-section.  As silly as it may sound, one of my number one worries is that my labour could be short enough as to make it so I don’t get to the hospital in time.  To me, that is a horrific scenario, which might seem ridiculous, but it’s true.  Home is more comfortable than hospital, yes, but not in all situations.  I like the security of knowing that if I DO need help beyond what a midwife can provide, I am in the right hands.  I also like that all the clean up takes place there!  I don’t want my birthing ‘stuff’ all over our bed.  Seriously, I think about these things, I have to!  I want to give birth in hospital and come home the next day when we’re good and ready.

But only time will tell what will happen.  I look forward to meeting our little one, but I have to say after writing all this, perhaps it’s a good thing that I have over 200 days left to adjust to what I know is coming!

2 comments:

Lojo said...

Articles like the one you linked to piss me off soooooo much, and I've never even experienced child birth. Whether it's natural child birth or moral bullshit surrounding breast feeding, I simply don't understand why some of these women feel the need to judge other women's choices. In my eyes, it takes the women's movement back 25 years. Good for you for sticking to what feels right to you and shrugging off this kind of lady bullying crap! A woman's individual choices are no one elses business! And I hope you get some sleep relief soon<3

Trista said...

Thank you so much for this post Elizabeth. :)
I have been wanting to do a post on this for quite some time, and I think you have inspired me, though at the rate I'm going, it will be a month before I have a post on it.
Anyway, for now, what I want to say is... I hate the "oh, you don't have to be a hero" argument for women who are planning natural birth. For me, I wish I would have had a nice, simple, succint birth plan, just for things that we would have really liked to do but were so caught up in things and didn't really think to, etc. Nothing super major, but yeah. Also, the main thing is I think birth plans are good because they encourage families to RESEARCH THEIR OPTIONS! Which.. is so important. I think going with a midwifery would be different too as they would give you moreinformation/education than a family doc/OB/GYN. That is a total generalization and I feel terrible for writing that, because there are good docs/obs and good miwives and bad dogs/obs and bad midwives. Anyway.. yes, I think it helps women and their partners to explore their options and educate themselves, because unfortunately, some of the most important information isn't readily available to us and we have to seek it out, or even, it is available but not ALL info is presented *such as risks of epidurals, etc*.
I don't care what a woman does. And I mean that in a sincere, empathetic way, honestly! I think the most important thing is being informed and educated. I think birth plans are totally cool, but obviously with some room for movement, just like any plans we make in life. I don't know, but the birthing experiences was one of THE most transformative experiences of my life, and I didn't even have a natural childbirth! I plan out a simple day of mine, and I plan out my education and the rest of my life, hence why I would want to "plan" a birth, loosely. Granted, like you said, some things that are recommended, aren't going to work for some people and we might think they will work and then when we are in labour and the most amazing changes are taking place in our bodies and with our babies, we may be totally against whatever it was we thought would work. So that's why room for movement and leeway is critical. But I think they are great for the "little" things (which might be not be so little after all) that we may neglect to think about in the heat of the movement (such as immediate breastfeeding, etc, if that is something that is desired). Stuff like that.
Anyway, we've had an extremely long and exhausting (but good!) weekend but I wanted to comment on this. I hope I made sense.
Can't wait to see what babe #2 brings in terms of labour and babyborning! xoxo!



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