|This picture never gets old to me.|
A little while back, I talked about all the ways I've attempted to make this pregnancy easier and a little more enjoyable than my last two. So far, it's all been working well for me. I also wrote about our struggle with naming this little girl. I appreciate all the name suggestions and we are currently analyzing them to death and trying to choose one. We may just need to wait until she is born to make any final decisions.
But as you may have noticed, I still haven't publicly broached the subject of childbirth yet. Not on this blog, anyway. I've had mixed feelings about how to approach the topic since it is very personal and also hotly debated. Especially online where people tend to abandon all civility.
However, I am also a believer in the power of discussion. I can do all the research I want on any given topic, but often I need to hear an anecdotal point of view or 10 before I feel comfortable making a decision.
So, I'm opening up the floodgates. I'm talking about childbirth.
If you are familiar with my blog, you know that I've experienced two less-than-desirable birth processes. Yes, both births ended in healthy babies, and for that, I could not be more grateful. But things didn't go so well for me, good ol' Mom. This is the part that we as a society never talk about -- how does the mother fare in the aftermath of childbirth? Audrey's delivery ended in a C-section and Carson's, a vacuum-assisted vaginal birth that injured me severely. Again, I was and still am grateful for the medical advances that allowed my children to be born healthy and alive when they otherwise wouldn't have. I am grateful for the doctors who made smart decisions in the heat of danger. And even though they were both terrible births, I would do them each 100 times over if it meant saving my children. Any mother would.
But here's the thing -- I know deep down it doesn't have to be this way. I don't have to have my innards cut in half and I don't have to spend six months wondering if I'll ever be able to be intimate with my husband again. There are other options for people like me.
When I got pregnant with this baby, I knew from the start I would want to see a certified nurse midwife for my obstetric care. CNM's are licensed to do all that regular OB's do, minus the ability to perform surgery. They are trained in both nursing and midwifery and they often deliver in a hospital setting like an OB. I had read that they take a more natural approach to prenatal care, labor and delivery and serve as an advocate for birthing mothers. They take time with the mothers, addressing all their concerns and validating each one. Based on my previous scary birth experiences, I knew I would want to deliver in a hospital no matter what. But I also wanted a provider who would help minimize the possibility of a repeat C-section as well as any injury I might sustain during a vaginal delivery. And after all I'd been through, I wanted someone who would care. So a CNM seemed like the best route to take.
Having experienced both health care providers now, I can attest there is a huge difference in their approach. Midwifes tend to focus more on the mother and baby's care by spending more time with you during appointments. They don't rush into the room, peek at your chart, check for heart tones and then leave you in a swirl of unanswered questions. A traditional OB appointment may last 5 - 10 minutes while a midwife appointment lasts between 20 - 30. You leave feeling empowered and excited for what is to come.
Now, I don't mean to discredit obstetricians. Many of them are abandoning the old school hit-and-run approach and are devoting more time to the patient's routine care. I recently saw the OB over my midwives' practice and I found he took just as much time with me as the midwives do. He was warm, kind and knew my chart backwards and forwards before he even came in the room. He addressed me by name repeatedly and talked with me on a personal level during the appointment. The best part was when he explained his birth philosophy, which is that childbirth should be a family experience, not a medical one. He understands that sometimes medical interventions are necessary to get baby into the world safely, but he believes those instances can be largely avoided through proper care and limiting interventions. So, I basically love him.
Does seeing a midwife mean I have to deliver without an epidural? No. That's the best part about midwives -- they are your advocates. They aren't supposed to push their ideals onto you during a very personal, intimate family experience. They are there to support you in whatever you decide and facilitate the birth of your child.
What will I do for pain management, then? Well (and this is the part I'm nervous about discussing) ... I want to go unmedicated this time. Don't get me wrong -- I LOVE epidurals. I have had two of them now. I am not trying to be a hero or prove a point or anything like that. But my experience has been this: when I had an epidural, I couldn't feel much of anything. I couldn't feel when to push and when to stop. I didn't have full control over my lower body muscles so I had to rely on the direction of doctors and nurses when it came to pushing baby out. And the vacuum didn't help, either.
Some people don't want to feel any of that pain, and guess what? I'm one of those people. I really don't want to experience the agony of childbirth if I don't have to. But ... I need to. Why? Because I would rather have hours or even days of birth pains than months and years of not being able to use the bathroom normally, hemmorhoids, vaginal pain, prolapse and sexual abstinence. Yeah, that was the reality for me after my second child's birth. I'm not irrationally scared of what could possibly happen -- I'm scared of what HAS ALREADY happened to me. I am more scared of the aftermath than I am of the pain I will definitely experience during baby's birth. I just cannot do that again.
So why not just see a regular OB and refuse an epidural, then? Well, a midwife is going to be there when I show up to the hospital and remain by my side (or leave it if I want her to) until the very end. She will encourage me to use a birthing ball and walk around during labor. She will talk me through the pain. And when it comes time to push, she'll let my body work and won't force me to bear down prematurely which will minimize tearing and the need for an episiotomy. In essence, she'll provide me with an environment in which my goal for a safe, non-injurious birth can be realized.
Today, I am 90 days away from my due date. I have to start thinking about how I'm going to get through this without the beautiful epidural. I am most interested in hypnobirthing but I'm open to other suggestions. That's why I'm blogging about this -- I need your help. (I tend to need your help a lot these days, huh?) What methods have worked for you? Or, maybe you haven't tried to give birth without medication, but you know about methods that worked for your loved ones and friends. Lay 'em on me because I need all the help I can get.