You should read this in order. Previous Chapters: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7
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.
I enjoyed your birth story and just wanted to comment on the “natural” childbirth thing. I have had a baby with no pain meds or epidural because it was too late. It was not pleasant. I have since had more and the epidural is a HUGE help. Just my opinion. I honestly don’t know why so many people care how you do it. As long as you go home with a healthy baby it’s all good.
Thank you for sharing your stories. I am new to your site (came through NaBloPoMo) and I am glad I found you!
I am childless (but with a husband who asks for babies) and I find it comforting to get honest accounts of how this whole giving birth thing works.
You couldn’t have said it any better, especially the last two lines – coming from a mum who had the epidural and was induced at 42 weeks.
I could write an essay on breast feeding – now that was a roller coaster ride and still is after four weeks. And I have since found that the breast versus bottle debate is just as heated as the natural versus pain free childbirth.
Well said. I’m 5 months pregnant, and reading your story has been great.
You can hire post-partum doulas, and they do everything from your laundry and cooking to helping you with feeding and washing the baby. Mostly they just make your life a little easier right after the birth, in any way they can.
I think it’s amazing how strongly some people feel about the way others give birth, and how being pregnant invites advice and criticism no matter what you do. It’s hard to roll with the unwated advice, especially while I’m already riding a hormonal roller coaster as it is. I’ve got to come up with a good snarky comment for those who either 1. tell me I’m doing it wrong, or 2. tell me a birth horror story about a friend of a friend. I really hate that.
Oh, yes. Bravo. I agree with you 100% about the aftermath being far worse than the labor.
During my pregnancy, I read book after book and website after website about pregnancy and labor and all that good stuff, but for whatever reason, once I got home, I ended up going through all of my wildly varying feelings pretty much on my own. Yes, I have a great husband and fantastic parents, but the feelings you have when you have a BRAND NEW BABY (eek!!) and your entire way of life is blown out of the water…well, those are the type of feelings that you dwell on in a very personal way.
Plans? When it comes to dealing with an infant, plans exist solely to make you feel inadequate. I had all of these grand plans and when I tried to pull everything together, nothing was quite the way I had envisioned it.
I am almost 3 months into motherhood, and the one thing I wish I had known before beginning this journey is that every situation is different—there is no “right” way to give birth or to raise your child.
Laura, don’t listen to anyone who wants to tell a pregnant person how awful their labor was. Seriously. They are doing one thing trying to rile you up, get you scared. it’s bullshit. If they tell you this when you’re no longer pregnant, then it’s probably just to share stuff. Ignore them otherwise. How rude.
Several people said to me that it doesn’t matter, nothing matters, negative positive, because you get to bring home a baby! That’s why when I felt really blue during one of the 28 hours of my labor I said to my mother, “I have no idea why anyone would go through all of this to have a baby for someone else.”
No amount of money in the world could talk me into doing that.
Anyway, don’t worry yourself silly. And just think! You get a baby from all of this!
Milissa: I am still amazed that they sent a baby home with us and we didn’t need to show a license or any other type of credential. ;]
No, really, there is no right way to raise a child. The only absolute must is love and kisses, of course.
And you are so right about the making plans statement.
once again, mihow, you do a great justice to women out there who need the info. thanks so much for sharing. I’m so glad you’re already feeling better just a few months after having emory. i’ve been depressed in the past and i could never admit it to anyone- even myself. they day i said to myself “I think I have depression” was the first day of my recovery. i’m expecting some level of post-partum depression when the day comes, and I think the more you accept it as natural, the easier it is.
and i really hope you don’t take december off : )
Well. This has been some ride, and I’m sure reliving it all (and dealing with rude and nasty comments and emails) has been difficult. Now that you’ve brought this chapter to a close, let me just say THANK YOU for your honesty and openness about all of this. You’ve given this childless and pondering lady quite a bit to digest, but I feel like any decision Mike and I make will be far more informed. Kudos to you, lady.
You go, girl!
No seriously…I thought childbirth would be the hardest part. Nope. The hardest part was when I got home. It was the 2.5 months of no sleep, knowing that I accidentally starved my baby for 2 weeks while trying to solely breastfeed but not making enough milk, frustration that I couldn’t interpret cries, never being able to shower, eat or leave the house when I wanted to, having relatives “help” when they were actually creating more work, mourning the loss of my career for motherhood, and coming to terms with being almost entirely responsible for someone else in this world. This is all NORMAL and expected, but I wish someone could have told me this. Repeatedly.
Michelle, I am so sorry that you feel the need to defend how you gave birth. No one has the right to judge anyone on the medical decisions they or their doctor make.
Like you, I wish I was better prepared for after the birth. Post-partum depression and acute anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks about a week after Adeline was born. She just turned 4 months old on the 24th, and I still take zoloft and ativan (for anxiety). I know we don’t know each other, and I hope this doesn’t sound cheesy or condescending, but I was somehow proud of you for how you handled your depression and baby blues after Emory was born.
I found your blog a little before Emory was born, and I’ve only commented a few times, but I truly enjoy reading and I read this blog everyday. You have a beautiful family, and you made the decisions that were right for you. Don’t let any jerks make you feel otherwise.
Mihow, this is a great post to finish it all off.
I’m proud in a weird way that I didn’t have drugs during childbirth, but on the other hand, I’m pretty sure I would NEVER do that again. If and when I do have another child, I’m going to get some help. I just have an unreasonable fear of anything to do with my spine. I do not want needles going anywhere near it. I would never carry a child for anyone else either. Pregnancy and childbirth, for me, were such an emotional time, I could not do it and not end up with a child at the end, to keep.
One of the major reasons why I am dragging my feet about having another child (husband wants one badly) is that the first six months were so bloody horrible. I probably had PPD, but didn’t ever go to the doctor. I’m not sure I could survive that again. I’m not sure I could even try to get pregnant, if there even was a chance I would have to go through that again. I don’t regret having my son, he is the light of my life, but it was only after he turned about 6 months that I could see that.
I just had to say, one of the best things about labour (for me), is that, other than the stitches, I was virtually pain-free immediately after Jonah was born. My body just stopped hurting, and I felt great. It’s amazing, truly that you can go from being in the worst pain of your life to none at all in a matter of minutes.
Everyone told me that my life would change permanently after I became a mother, but I never quite knew how much, and in what ways.
(a) A doula CAN be hired to do all that NOT a this, NOT a that stuff. But they are tres expensif, I believe! You can get one to hang out with you for months before birth, during L&D, and a few months after. I would be all over that if I could! I have a girlfriend who’s a doula, and she loves the job (in another state, or she’d be mine!)
(b) Nobody attracts condemnation and unsolicited advice like a pregnant woman – except maybe a new mother. I’m having to learn myself to let it roll.
(c) I loved reading about your birth story, because I like real world accounts. There’s nothing that will prepare me for my baby’s birth next spring – – – but somehow I feel like this helps. I’m glad for your honesty. I don’t care how you did it, I’m just so glad you shared it with us. Everybody’s got their own way!
Thanks for being so honest. I have a 20 month old son (pregnant with a second) and my sister just had a little boy 3 months ago. I was so shocked to find out how insensitive, judgemental and downright mean WOMEN can be to new moms. I went through it (especially with breastfeeding) and I am watching my sister go through it too…it’s painful.
I simply don’t understand how women can lack compassion for each other in these circumstances. The fact is that (for the most part) we are all trying so hard to do the right thing.
It was nice to hear that someone else feels similarly.
Mihow – I love what you’ve written. I agree that word choice is very important. To call a birth “natural” and another one “unnatural” has more connotations beyond the intended “without medication” and “with medication”. Sounds like we’re saying one is good and one is bad.
I lean towards the “without medication” perspective, but I love what you’ve written here. I hate the way we as women sometimes judge each other for the way we do things.
Regarding a doula – a good doula is there to help you feel confident. In some hospitals, nurses and other staff aren’t always with you, and a doula would be able to fill that role for you. A good doula is like your absolute best friend – minus the emotional investment (she can be objective) and plus all the experience and knowledge that comes with attending many births a year. A good doula supports you in any decision – whether it be to stick with your birthplan or deviate, whether it be to go without medication or get that epidural as soon as you walk in the door.
Check out http://www.dona.org
(Can you tell that I love doulas?:)
I think I need to study up on doulas a bit more should I have another baby. I would have loved to have had someone there for me after the birth, someone to not judge me at all no matter what I decide.
Thanks for writing, Debbie. It does help.
i want a baby, am 33, but suffer from depression, so am TERRIFIED of the aftermath and post-partum and how i will be able to deal with the next 22 years.
PS: Have you heard of Post Partum Doulas? :) They are there during the “aftermath” when you are home with baby. They can cook, clean if that’s all you need, but the good ones also know LOTS of newborn care info and also have training and extra knowledge in breastfeeding. (Hence they are far more than just a nanny). They sound like heaven for a new mom who’s a little unsure of herself. Again – the Dona website is good for info. (I’m not stumping for them or anything, just giving you an idea of where to go for more info) :)
That was so well put! That’s all us women need is another thing to divide us. I can’t believe how women make it an all or nothing deal (natural vs. drugs, breast vs. bottle). We really need to just be supportive of each other. I’ve always tried my best not to tell my friends, or anyone else, how they should do things. Each labor & delivery is so different from the next. I had a 30 hour natural childbirth with my 4 year old. It was an awesome experience, and that seemed to carryover to my attitude post-partum. I can’t tell you how amazing it all was. Now, that being said, I wasn’t induced, I was at a birth center, and my water never broke (midwife broke it during pushing, so as to avoid a splash in the face). My 17 month old was induced. It was a terrible, terrible ordeal. I hated every minute of it. I had contractions that felt like 7-8 cm during my natural labor, when I was only 3 cm. Pitocin changes everything. BRING ON THE DRUGS! I had an epidural. I was never one of those do or die people. It all ended with a c-section, since my Ahole doctor was afraid he was too big and would get stuck (I was 41.5 weeks, my son was 9lbs). I think bcs it was all very traumatic for me that it carried over to post-partum. I loved my son, but I just felt bad about the whole thing. A plan is for something you can control. You cannot control labor, not with a plan, a doula, or “natural”. You just do what you have to for a healthy baby and your SANITY! You did awesome. A good friend always says to me that sometimes you are just surviving. All those days of questioning and feeling guilty and just not knowing what to do…I just needed to look at those days as “we will get through this. No one will be hurt by this or that. I am just coping.”
I just started reading your blog. You are doing great. Sometimes we just need to hear that from someone else.
Oh, and I’m having another in May! So here we go. I don’t care how it happens! :)
I, like you, was terrified of giving birth. I hired a Doula right away. I needed someone to ask my billions of questions and to reassure me that I could do it. Of course, here in the not gigantic city, it wasn’t near as expensive as I hear it is there or other big metropolises. She was indispensable during labour, it was really busy and there wasn’t always a nurse to help Mark and I understand WTF was going on. She had been present at more births than my OBGYN, she was amazing. She came over afterwards a few times to help with breastfeeding and other questions. She didn’t do housework and such, that is not a Doula role, at least not here. She had a weekend class for 4 couples she was helping and it was amazing. I feel really fortunate to have had here there on the coldest night of the year and the busiest night in labour and delivery in 3 years.
You did awesome, we have a lot in common in lots of ways. :-) I would never criticize someone for how they gave birth. It is one of the hardest things a human being can do regardless of method.
Mihow, I’m sorry too that you feel the need to defend yourself but I think that this telling and re-telling is all part of the healing process. Giving birth for the first time is traumatic and your body and mind need to make peace with what happened.
My first daughter was born five years ago and in that time I’ve seen all sorts of mother monsters, there is always something, it starts with the birth and the epidural or not question and is shortly followed by the breast or bottle, then the vaccine or not, the naughty step, smacking…the list is endless and what i’ve learned is that instead of letting it all make you feel inadequate you just have to do whats right for you and your baby.
I loved your birth story. And the message in your post about the aftermath.
Funny, I just wrote a post about beating myself over getting induced and the epidural. But you know what? Almost everybody I know, whether they were induced or not, needed the help of Pitocin for their first birth (a few friends had their water break but no labor). And when you have Pitocin—you need the epidural. I stand by that. In fact, my doctor strongly recommended that I have the epidural in place before the Pitocin was administered. Smart man.
Wow. Fantastic recount. People still amaze me that think they have the right to criticize another. I only hope that it stops at strangers and does not trickle down to their kids.
You are quite familiar with Grace’s birth and the players involved. I was lucky enough to have Kelly in the delivery room with me but I whole heartedly agree that I would trust her with my life and my unborn child’s too.
I was fortunate enough to have connected with a wonderful woman and friend who was my doula and post partum. I know I could have done it without her but she gave me the confidence to address the staff, feed me questions I was too distracted to ask and help me manage my pain for hours until it was too much and needed the epi.
Grace almost tore my labia off and those are not my words but Dr. Greening’s. However, we are all happy and healthy and I would have done it the same way had I to do it over again.
Birth plans are nice but you do not have a crystal ball. Close your eyes and try to dream up the most outrageous birth and it would not come close to reality.
Thanks for keeping it real and constantly reminding me that we are among some idiots. Those idiots have mommas and maybe they should just stop and think about that before making themselves feel better at someone else’s expense.
I loved reading about your birth story and am sorry to hear that you’ve had people disregard your birth as something “not as good” as their’s just because you used medication. Poo on them.
I wasn’t planning on having an epidural or having a c-section but I will never regret it. Hearing your baby’s heart rate fall to dangerous levels changes what you feel about having a c-section. (didn’t help that he had the cord around his neck and he was upside down) And really, when it came down to it my entire birth plan was to end up with a happy, healthy baby and a happy, healthy momma-and we did just that.
Oh, and why is it that people feel free to tell you exactly what they feel about your pregnancy/birth/child rearing, even when you don’t know them? Do we do this with anything else? You don’t see people going up to strangers and lecturing them on their choice of dog food or cat toy. I know, I know, children aren’t anything like pets-that’s not what I’m saying. It’s just so odd that someone would think it was ok to lecture strangers on something as personal as their child. Meh.
I had low amniotic fluid when I was pregnant with my daughter – I forget the long medical term for it, but it landed me in the hospital a week before she was born. I got attached to my best friend, Bob, the IV infusion pump – who went with me everywhere. The nurses I talked to all asked if I was concerned about the delivery – it was going to be a scheduled C-section. I told them no, I was worried about the next 18 years!!
It drives me fucking crazy that people, especially other mothers!, feel it is okay to judge about birth stories, breast feeding, whatever.
There is something weird that happens as soon as you become pregnant…it is like you’ve announced to the entire world: I am now open to receive your unwanted touches, judgments, advice, and criticisms. I really have to wonder that if men could get pregnant, would this kind of open season occur?
People need to learn to shut the fuck up.
Just an aside, my doctors told me that having an epidural still meant a “natural” childbirth. They pull that thing out when you have to push, because you need to feel your body telling you to push.
Regardless? The majority of mothers did not have the birth scenario go exactly as they imagined it. Things happen. What matters is you and Emory are healthy. How you got him here is YOUR story.
I had a doula, and also a meticulously mapped-out “birth plan.” Which went right out the window at about hour 13, through no action of my own. And the doula did just what you described in your hypothetical, which is that she advocated on my behalf with the staff and whoever else, supported and encouraged me, and let me know that it was totally OKAY to unexpectedly have to induce and have an epidural, it was best for the baby, and we had educated ourselves to be able to roll with the changes. And you know what? She was right, and everything was fine. The end.
Thank you for sharing your birth story. I love reading how other women’s births unfold. I agree with you that too many women get beat up for the choices that they make. I had a doula and we spoke before the birth about my labour plan. When the big day arrived we deviated from the plan but that was what WE needed to do. My doula could not have been more supportive. I also had a post-partum doula who came and helped with laundry, dealing with dishes and just generally helped me adjust to motherhood.
I’m curious, before you gave birth you asked people to suggest items to have at the birth. What item did you find absolutely necessary? Anything that you forgot or didn’t have with you that you wish you did have?
I love reading your blog because you are so frank and I love that you can crack me up!