Back in October, I decided I was going to plan for a med-free labor with a midwife. I was not very sure about it and thought I might really be losing my mind. But now that the baby is just a few weeks from making her debut, I am really confident with that decision. I want to touch on why I made it and what I have learned since then, but I need to make a disclaimer.
This is a sensitive subject that a lot of people have passionate views on. I love the passion and love the comments, even and especially the ones that don’t agree with me. Always feel free to leave them in a respectful way. I am excited about what I have learned and think it’s important to share because our culture presents a lot of mistruths about labor. I am thankful for my friends who have pointed them out to me and hope to do the same for others. That being said, the decision on how to labor is incredibly personal and each woman has the right to make her own choices free of judgment.
Okay then. Where to begin?
When I first found out I was pregnant after 2.5 years of trying, I was ecstatic. I didn’t know if I would ever get to experience pregnancy, delivery, breast feeding, and all of those little miracles biomothers get to be part of. I felt incredibly lucky and thankful to be part of something so cool.
And then I thought of an 8-pound baby coming out of my hoohaw and I was terrified.
When I pictured the delivery, I pictured what I had seen on television- lying in bed, feet in stirrups, screaming and cussing and crying. To be sure, the baby would make it all worth it, but nothing about that sounded fun.
I became interested in hearing other people’s birth stories. Most of my friends, like most women in the US, delivered with epidurals. Some had great experiences, others not so great. A few crazy friends delivered without drugs. Some of those births were easy, some were hard, but those friends all felt strongly about the benefits of natural birthing. No one suggested birthing was something they’d want to do for fun on a Saturday night, but my natural birthing friends spoke much differently of their labor experience than my medicated friends. Around the same time, I also became fascinated with international birthing statistics and the way birthing is treated in the US compared to other countries.
I saw my regular OBGYN and planned to deliver at my regular hospital. I had to sign something that said they would not accept or look at birth plans. At the time I didn’t even think about having a birth plan-I thought they were kinda weird-but it really turned me off that they wouldn’t even look at them.
A little more research showed me that my hospital, while a good hospital, did not have a great reputation for honoring the laboring mother’s wishes. They have high C-section and medical intervention rates. With all this swirling in my head, I decided that if I was going to deliver at that hospital I might want a doula. A doula is trained professional that provides physical and emotional support during labor. They are not qualified to deliver a baby, but they have the medical knowledge to talk with doctors and advocate for the mother’s wishes. Births with doulas present have much lower rates of C-section, foreceps, and vacuum deliveries. Since the husband and I know nothing about medicine and will pretty much do whatever the doctor tells us is best for the child, I thought it would be nice to have someone there who could question and speak up for us if the doctor was pushing for unnecessary intervention or pressuring us into something we weren’t sure we wanted to do.
After meeting with just one doula, we totally changed our plans.
I am not against medicine. Usually, you take medicine or go to the hospital when the body is not working the way it is intended to work. Maybe a bone or tendon moved a way it was not supposed to move. Maybe the arteries around your heart are clogged, or your kidneys are not functioning properly. Perhaps a virus has invaded your body or the chemicals in your brain are not balanced. There are a million things that can go wrong with your body and require treatment. But is pregnancy and giving birth one of them?
I don’t think so. I think pregnancy and birth are times when your body is doing exactly what it is made to do (even if it takes your body 2.5 years to realize that)! Assuming you are in good health and the pregnancy is uncomplicated, why would you want to mess with that? I decided I didn’t.
And then a funny thing happened. I still wasn’t completely sold on this idea, but my fear about giving birth evaporated. Which was really strange, since by making this decision I knew I was going to feel more pain. But I felt free. I felt in control. I felt empowered.
Next time I’ll talk about the different philosophies of labor and some of the risks of medical interventions.