Thursday, August 4, 2011

Alternative Birth?

Today is my birthday. That comes with the expected and socially normal greeting, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY." And yet as I am still working on coming to grips with my own birth and the violating births that I witness or hear of daily, I find it hard to do more than provide a nod and token smile to the well-wisher.

Indeed, life is precious and birth is an intense event no matter what happens. But all births are not happy. It's not wrong or bad to acknowledge this and we can bring true support to others when we do acknowledge painful, violating or traumatizing births.

Ryann incidentally wrote this today, and so I felt it was appropriate to share it. A persistent myth is that those who advocate for normal births oppose all interventions, or oppose interventions completely. This is not true. We oppose unnecessary interventions. We oppose coercion and fearmongering. We oppose implementing routine medical procedures without scientific evidence or in direct opposition to scientific evidence. Most of all, we oppose stripping women, babies and families of their respect, dignity and innate authority over their bodies and their birthing experiences. These things can happen no matter where birth happens or who happens to be at the birth. But right now in our culture, they are primarily occurring in medicalized environments, so that is where the majority of our attention rests.
by Ryann Jay on Thursday, August 4, 2011 

"Birth, something that happens every day, something that happens all around the world, something that has been happening since the beginning of time, seems to be a very controversial thing these days.  

People become upset when we refer to c-sections as unnatural while others consider every vaginal birth as natural. Some hear about homebirth or birthing center births and think moms who make those choices are putting their babies in danger; while some home birthing and birthing center moms feel that having a baby in a hospital is putting their babies in danger.

I am currently pregnant with my third child. With my oldest daughter, I was 18 when I got pregnant and 19 when I had her. I went to a regular OB and did as I was told. I didn’t question anything. With my second, I also went to a regular OB, did as I was told and didn’t question things. Although I did something a little different with my second, I decided I would only get pain drugs if they were needed and I wasn’t going to plan on getting the drugs. With my first, drugs were the plan from the beginning. With my second it occurred to me, “why do I need drugs?” I labored all night without drugs. I was doing fine, playing cards with my mother and with each contraction the most I ever said was, “Oh, there’s another one.” Some I wouldn’t have even known I was having if my mom didn’t comment on what the monitor was doing. I was very happy without the drugs and didn’t feel a need for them.

The nurse came in sometime that morning and said, “We are gonna go ahead and order your epidural because the midwife is on her way to break your water.” I let her know I really didn’t feel the need for the epidural and was doing fine. She proceeded to scare me into getting the epidural. She told me how much more the contractions were going to hurt once they broke my water and that with it being my second child once they broke my water the baby would come too fast to do the epidural. She continued to pressure me until I consented to the epidural.

Once I received my epi, the midwife for my OB’s office was there, waiting to break my water. She broke my water and said, “Look, the baby’s head is right there! We are ready to deliver.” I pushed maybe 4 times in a matter of 10 minutes and my daughter was out. I felt everything; I really do not think the epi had time to work at all. This didn’t bother me at all, in fact what bothered me was how I was scared out of my natural birth.

Fast forward 7 years and I am pregnant again with my first son. This time around, talking to a few friends about what I want and what I didn’t want, one of my friends asked, “Why don’t you have the baby at home or at the birthing center?” For me personally, I am not comfortable with the idea of having the baby at home, but wait, birthing center? What’s that? She gave me the name of a local birthing center and I gave them a call. Meeting with one of the amazing workers there and having a tour, getting some questions answered, I knew this was the place I wanted to birth my third child.
I must say, with my daughters, I don’t feel that I “birthed” them; I had them delivered. Prior to this pregnancy I would have said I birthed them, but now I really don’t feel I did. I don’t say this because I didn’t have a natural birth with them, I say this because I was so uninformed, and uneducated about the process of what was happening to my body as not only I labor and give birth, but throughout the pregnancy.

This pregnancy, every appointment with my midwife has lasted nearly an hour and been devoted to me talking about how I am eating, what is going on during that month in pregnancy and what I may or may not be noticing, rather than “Hi, any questions? Bye.”

At this point in my pregnancy (30.5 weeks) it is looking like birthing at the birthing center might not be the right choice for my baby and I due to a marginal placenta previa. It can still be safe for me to have a vaginal birth, but an emergency c-section might be needed. For that reason I might be birthing at the hospital if it does not move or if other symptoms appear.

With my last pregnancies, I went in to the doctor, I peed in a cup, I put it in the little window and that was the last I saw of it, unless the test done with it said something negative, otherwise I had no clue. Now I go in to the birthing center, I pee in a cup, I do the test strip and the lovely midwives showed me how to read the test strip, then I report the results to my midwife. All of the tests that can be done during pregnancy, my midwife talked to me about, explained what the tests are, what my risk factor for that tests are, if there is a false positive rate for the tests, and what can be done if the tests come back bad. Then I decide which tests I want. So far, I’ve decided against most of the tests.

It’s funny to me that if you google “alternative birth methods” you find resources on birthing centers and home birth, when it used to be that everyone had their babies at home, drug free, surrounded by family and loved ones. Hospitals were built and birthing ended up in hospitals. They developed drugs for complications but now the majority of women receive drugs during birth. Yet in most cases having a baby is not a medical emergency. I am not sick because I am in labor, why go to the hospital? Hospitals are for sick people and medical emergencies.  I don’t think any less of someone for having a needed c-section. I don’t think any less of a mom for choosing drugs. But, I do think less of myself for how uninformed I was during my last pregnancies.  

I didn’t spend the time writing this to convince anyone to have a home birth or a birthing center birth, I wrote this to encourage people to become informed, to become educated and to open their eyes to the risks of the drugs they are offering to pump in to your body and what effect they can have not only on you but on your baby. They say these things are safe but babies have been harmed by them and even rushed off to the NICU because of problems. I personally know my nephew had to be rushed off to the NICU because of the effects of the drugs his mother was given during labor to close to delivery.


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