Friday, June 10, 2011

Confessions of a Mom who had a Fast Waterbirth

©Meredith Barth 2011. Meredith shares her midwife assisted homebirth story. She provides perspective on how a good midwife can stay behind the scenes and only intervene when required. She also gives insight into fast births and waterbirths:

Birth and Relativity

I had the perfect birth. After less than two hours of labor, supported by my husband and midwife in the comfort of my living room and the tranquility of a birthing pool, I pushed my baby boy into my own two hands and lifted him to my chest. It was beautiful.

But the perfect birth on paper was not my perfect birth. What some women would have experienced as ideal, a birth they could only dream of, was a birth in which I felt violated.

We had been very careful to avoid ultrasound during our prenatal appointments, and our warm and wonderful midwife happily used a fetoscope as she does with nearly all her patients. I had asked about how often she usually listened to baby during labor and was met with a satisfactory answer: When there's a reason to make sure baby is handling labor well. That was as far as I thought I needed to take the conversation. I assumed my intentions were clear and consistent with hers: If all is well, we leave well enough alone.

She arrived at our home only half an hour before our son was born. I was entering transition, a time when I intensely focus inward, blocking out most of the world around me. Even during my unmedicated hospital birth with our first son, I remember tuning out nurses, doctors, even my husband at times. And though the environment was much different this time, this aspect of labor was not.

I remember seeing her set down large bags, a distraction in itself regardless of how purposefully quiet she was being. (We don't need equipment. I'm birthing, not sick!) I remember the bright purple medical gloves. (There's nothing medical happening here!) And then shortly after she acclimated to our environment, the question asked very calmly: "Do you mind if I check on baby?"

I was barely getting a break between contractions by this time, and all my energy was focused on the task at hand. In my head I was screaming, literally screaming, "NO!" I knew baby was handling labor beautifully, and no heart rate was going to change or solidify that. But nothing came out - not soon enough anyway, because my husband gave the go ahead.

Then I felt it. The cold doppler wand touching my warm wet belly. As if the question itself hadn't been disruptive enough, this pulled me straight out of my birthing brain where I had been free to feel my way, and forced me into cognition and conscious thought. This was not the head space I needed to be in, and my body made that clear. Ten minutes later I felt it again, and all I could do was try to move my body away as a contraction started.

Going back to watch the birth video, it was thirty seconds of ultrasound exposure. That's it. Thirty seconds. But in terms of my birth, my memories, my experience, my well-being, it was so much more.

It was a loss of control. It was a violation. Something had happened to me in my most vulnerable state, against my will and in my own home, and that made it even more significant than any of the things that I experienced during my previous hospital birth.

It doesn't change the fact that my son came at the perfect time, in the perfect environment and in the perfect way. But it does take away my ability to feel perfectly at peace with his birth.

As I have with my first birth, I'll use this experience as a guide toward the right path for our next child - a path that I'm confident will end in an unassisted birth. And while I can be thankful that it has motivated me to throw myself further headlong into true trust in the safety and beauty of unhindered birth, a part of me will always mourn the loss of what could have been with this birth.

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