Enough people have written me email or have left comments about my birth story to warrant some clarification.
For starters, I want everyone to know that when I think about my experience giving birth to Emory, I don’t think about it as a negative one. For me to see it as negative, something would have had to go wrong with Emory. And he was happy! His heartbeat never took a turn. He was totally fine throughout the entire ordeal.
I also want to talk about why I was induced. I have always had a steady blood pressure. My doctors have always described my blood pressure as perfect. So, whenever things drastically changed so much at week 40 my doctor was rightly concerned. Not only was I off the charts where blood pressure was concerned, but I was seeing little white fireflies in my peripheral every time I stood up. My doctor (who I trust with my life and my baby’s) decided it was time to take action. She gave me four days go “get things going”. If I came in after those four days and still had problems with my blood pressure, we should talk about scheduling an induction. Guess what? Four days later, things were worse.
I would not have scheduled an induction had there not been a medical reason for it. I was miserable toward the end, sure, but my discomfort wasn’t reason enough to induce. Because of my deteriorating health, Emory was at risk as well.
I also need to mention that I never really had a birth plan. A couple of people asked me why I never came up with one. I put a lot of faith in my doctors throughout my entire pregnancy and looked to them to decide what I should do. I felt both my baby and me were in excellent hands the entire time. While the actual labor may not have come off as smoothly as I may have liked, Emory was in very capable hands. I really believe that. Even when he was admitted into the NICU I felt he was safe and looked after. I will say this much: if we ever do have another baby, I won’t think twice about going back to that hospital. I would like to see that evil desk clerk fired first, but otherwise, I have no complaints.
More than a few people have hinted both passively and aggressively that I would have had a better time with a “natural” childbirth. That very well might be true. We’ll never know. But I get annoyed with how loosely the term “natural” is thrown around. In order for anyone to correctly use a word, we need a common definition. When does something become unnatural? Is human action, presence, or influence the source of the distinction? Medicine? And if it’s medicine at what point do you draw the line between “natural” medicine and all other? My point is that your definition of “natural” probably varies from another’s. Is anesthesia natural? How about using acupuncture as an anesthesia? Ice is pretty natural, right? How about being submerged in ice before a medical procedure? The truth is, the word “natural” is an empty rhetorical trick used to mask a lack of clarity or spin a simpler and more concrete distinction in favor of one side over another.
I think what people mean to say when using the word “natural” is without the use of pain management drugs or an epidural. In such a case, it would be more productive to use a term such as “birth without pain management drugs.”
I did not choose to go about childbirth without the epidural. I was frightened. I hadn’t ever done anything like it before. I hadn’t been around women who had. I know of two people who nearly lost a baby because the baby swallowed meconium during labor. And still one more person very close to me lost a baby this way. I couldn’t imagine going through nine months of pregnancy, growing attached to a baby only to see it die. The idea still terrifies me. Also, there are no known downsides to the use of modern pain management drugs aside from stepping on the toes of ideologues.
One person asked me if I felt that having doula would have made things different. I don’t know. I asked my mother to be there for my labor and delivery because she went through all three childbirths differently. My older brother was born by use of an epidural. My mother was induced for me and she was then given both narcotics and an epidural. (Which is the most preferred state when dealing with me.) And my younger brother was born without the use of any drugs or anesthesia at all. I felt (and still feel) that she was a perfect person to have around. I also wanted to share it with her. Had I been able to have more than two people in the delivery room I may have entertained the idea of hiring a doula. But it never came to that. I knew from the beginning that I wanted both my mother and my husband in the room with me.
Looking back, however, it would have been nice to have a person I’m not close to around to tell me that what I was going through and how I was feeling was perfectly normal especially after the baby was born. I really beat myself up for weeks following Emory’s birth. If doulas can be hired for that purpose, I suppose it may have been helpful. But I always thought that the doula’s role is to keep a woman from agreeing to something during childbirth that she may not have agreed to under more rational circumstances. Since I didn’t have a birth plan and I’m known for changing my mind and wholeheartedly believing in said change, a doula sounded like she could become more annoying than helpful. I’m stubborn and rather pigheaded when I need to be. I probably would have pissed off a doula and fired her midway through my labor. (Granted, this is all based on what I have heard a doula is hired for. I could very well be proven wrong about a doula’s role in all of this.)
If it’s NOT a doula’s role to make a woman feel as normal and comfortable as humanly possible after giving birth, there is a huge market for a person like this. I really could have used NOT a lactation consultant, NOT a birthing coach, NOT a midwife, I could have used a sane someone who’s been there before. I would have benefited from someone telling me that it’s OK if I can’t get the hang of breastfeeding. It’s OK if I am afraid to hold the baby right away. It’s OK that I feel like I dismantled any previous version of my life and that one day I would learn to how live the new one. I wanted someone to grab a hold of my head, shake it clean and let me know that everything I was going through was entirely normal and the sadness would one day subside. Instead, that role was filled by several hundred voices from the Internet.
If we do have another baby, I will likely go about things differently. I would like to avoid being induced unless it’s absolutely necessary. If my blood pressure raises again as it did with this pregnancy, I might asked to be watched closely by a doctor to make sure we’re both ok instead of being induced. If it doesn’t work out that way, I might ask that they NOT give me the epidural until I am further dilated. (The reason they didn’t give me enough Pitocin the first time was because they had no way of judging how intense my contractions were.) If that can’t be done, I might ask for the internal monitor from the get go so they can judge how much more Pitocin to administer.
And yes, for all those out there with a boner for a childbirth without the use of narcotics or an epidural, I might give that a try as well. Now that I know what happens, now that I’m no longer terrified to give birth, I might give it a shot. Who knows. I don’t want to make an absolute plan. If there is one thing I learned from all of this is that all of it is entirely unpredictable. I planned on so many things before I actually had the baby and when I returned home with him, I was barely able to accomplish one of them. And the seeming failures made me feel even more depressed. I really beat myself up over my failures and spent little time rejoicing in having a baby.
If you take anything away from this post and the 7 chapters I wrote over the last couple of weeks it’s the following statement:
The mental aftermath hurt far worse than the days I spent in the hospital.
And I went through that both drug and epidural free.