Saturday, September 20, 2008

Childbirth in America

This has me really interested:

When I was pregnant with One, I had a regular OB. At least at first. Then I started reading a lot on childbirth history, natural childbirth, birth plans, you name it. I decided I wanted to try to have One naturally, and I approached my doctor with this idea. I had all kinds of things written down - neatly typed, in fact - and I gave him a copy of my little plan. He put it on the corner of his desk farthest from him, told me he didn't have time to read it and asked me to summarize. I explained that we (Husband was with me for this big talk) wanted to try to have One with as few medical interventions as possible, and asked him what he could do to help us achieve that goal. At that very second, he turned his head from me and from that moment on only talked to my Husband. Women needed to be in bed during labor, he explained. Your wife could hurt herself if she's not lying down - you need to help her understand these things. And on and on and on. I was non-existent; he was a car salesman and he was explaining to my husband why he needed to convince me to go with the automatic transmission, because women just can't drive stick. I stood up in the middle of his speech, 30 weeks pregnant, and announced we were leaving and never coming back.

Through a series of conversations and emails I wound up with a practice of CNM's - certified nurse midwives. This group of 4 women practice with 7 OBs, deliver in hospitals, and have a very high rate of natural childbirth. They were amazing. First of all, they took me in - in my 3rd trimester no less. Second, they spent so much time in each appointment talking to us about what we wanted, sharing as much information as possible. They assumed we wanted to try to have One naturally but at the same time made it clear that failing to do so after trying was never, ever to be considered "failure". When I passed my due date, they checked on One but otherwise shrugged their shoulders; babies don't wear watches in the womb - he'll be here when he gets here. When almost 2 weeks passed, they scheduled me for induction but gave in when I begged for one last weekend. Miraculously I went into labor the next day.

I wish I could say that One's labor and delivery was everything I'd planned. In fact, it was almost everything I'd wanted to avoid. Every medical intervention except a C-section was involved before the little bugger took his first breath. All those books I read were right: one intervention leads to another just as sure as one potato chip leads to the whole bag, greasy fingers and a tummy ache. I was disappointed, but not as much as I'd expected. He was here, I was a mother, and, well, there'd always be a next time.

Two's delivery was the reversal of One's. 12 weeks of bedrest for pre-term labor and then high blood pressure meant that, at 41 weeks, even I wanted to be induced. I still didn't want pain medication, but thought to myself I'd never make it without some - the pitocin scared me half to death. Nevertheless, we went to the hospital on Valentine's Day and I was hooked up to "the drip". Shockingly, I did it. The whole thing - even 45 minutes of pushing - with no pain meds. When I realized what had happened I felt like I'd climbed Mt. Everest wearing a prom dress and with no oxygen mask. I knew I could do anything now. It was exhilarating, to say the least.

Unmedicated childbirth may not be for everyone but I sincerely wish more women would consider it. Our bodies were not necessarily "made" to run marathons, and yet many people experience great satisfaction at pushing themselves to complete one. Conversely, women's bodies are made to give birth. Natural childbirth gives you a perfect chance to experience what an amazing being God created you to be.

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