Monday, July 6, 2009

A few more thoughts on giving birth

When I found out I'm pregnant with Shira, I had no idea that in a few short months, I would become a natural birth advocate. In fact, it was very obvious to me that I would have an epidural. Why would I want to suffer?

The credit, like many other times, goes to Yitzhak. He was the one who introduced me to the knowledge of the potential harmful side effects of epidural and other drugs used to relieve labor pains. It turns that those drugs have an effect on the baby, and can interfere with the progress of labor (because the contractions aren't felt the way they normally would be) and also with establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship afterwards, because the baby might be too sleepy to nurse. What about all the mishaps of epidural? Many women experience back pains for months afterwards, and a few are paralyzed for a lifetime.

Epidural might even fail to achieve its purpose - relieving pain. I have a friend who had an epidural administered so badly that she could still feel the labor pains, but she couldn't move around or do anything to make it easier for her.

I won't elaborate further about the side effects of drugs used during labor, but you can find literally an ocean of information through a simple Google search.

It's true that with modern medicine and hospitals, the rate of maternal and infant mortality is wonderfully low, but there is a great number of self-induced "emergencies" and an outrageous rate of c-sections. I think it comes in a large part with the prevalent interference policy practised in most hospitals. If the mother and baby are fine, the focus should be on monitoring and not on interfering, but many doctors just don't seem to understand that. They are in a hurry, they want the labor&delivery room free, and the policy of giving a healthy woman pitocin or breaking her waters for no medical reasons is "Why Not?"

Even if there were no dangerous side effects to epidural, I think natural birth would be worth it for the emotional benefits alone. And by natural I don't just mean unmedicated, but mostly quiet and uninterrupted. I don't believe it's a coincidence that my labor stopped after a couple of hours of constant poking, prodding and pressure, and sped up beautifully after we had the sense to escape to a quiet, homey environment for a couple of hours.

When I told my birth story, I was accused of being not entirely truthful because I failed to describe the overwhelming pain and fear I was supposed to feel during labor and birth. But the truth was, I didn't gloss things over. Giving birth was no picnic. It was hard work, but it was also an incredibly beautiful, uplifting emotional and spiritual experience. I can't say I loved every moment of it, but I'm looking back with fond memories and a smile.

I realize that every birth experience is different, and that all women are different. While I breathed through my contractions and hopped up and down on the birthing ball, I could hear women from other rooms screaming for the anaesthesiologist. One woman broke down in hysterical sobs when she was told she will have to wait. I'm not trying to show myself off as superior, or able to do something other women could not. I'm simply telling how things were for me.

Of course there are also women who had epidurals and loved it and had no side effects and no problem to breastfeed afterwards. But how could I know which one I would be? I was so happy I was able to avoid it.

Some people say it doesn't matter how you give birth, because the final result (unless something, God forbid, goes terribly wrong) is the same. Of course the most important thing, at the end of it all, is to have a healthy Mom and baby. But I do believe that the memories matter. Ask any mother, and even if all her children are already grown, chances are that she remembers every moment of labor, birth, and the first few days with her baby. Even my Grandma remembers, and she is 93. It's like a wedding: of course, in the end what matters is a good, life-lasting marriage, but the wedding is a big day and most people hold precious memories of it!

I loved it that most of the time, it was just me, my husband, and God watching over us. It was lovely to have the help and encouragement of midwives and a doula, which made me feel more confident, but when it comes to the bottom line, I think I could have made it on my own as well. I didn't need drugs or a team of doctors supervising. There's something very empowering in the thought that God made your body with the ability to bring a baby into this world, from start (conception, which happens on its own) to finish (birth). And it was beautiful.

I'm already waiting to find out how next time goes!

43 comments:

Harper said...

As usual, I'm with you on this one. I was blessed to be able to have a home birth for my boy (born at 4.8 kilos). I can imagine things that would be more painful than birthing. While it wasn't pleaureable, it was a very satisfying experience for me. The sense of working hard towards a goal really took my mind off the pain. And time seemed to speed up, so I was really surprised when he was born to learn how long I had labored.

Even during the labor process I was looking forward to doing it again some day.

Anonymous said...

In my experience a lot of this has to do with how the baby is positioned when the mother goes into labor.
My first birth was very difficult, due to the fact that the baby was positioned with his body facing my front (I forget the medical term). This created a very long labor with terrible back pain and a distressed baby.
My second baby was footling breech, born without drugs or intervention, but I was a lot more informed. I was also happy to stand up for myself against a hospital which had 'policies' against breech babies being born vaginally at all.
I also think the right midwife is so important.
Can I take your last sentence as a hint? :)
regards
Dawn

Sarah said...

Having experienced an almost painkiller-free birth, and an epidural, I'd take the natural any day.

My son was born after 4 hours of labour with only heatpacks and 2 pain relief tablets. They took enough of an edge off that I could concentrate, but the pain was still horrible.

My daughter was born 5 months ago via emercency c-section after her heart rate dropped so low i thought it was my own, so an epidural was necessary. We have luckily avoided any side effects, but the discomfort of a needle in my spine was far more horrible than any pain I experienced with the natural birth.

Should we ever be blessed with a third, barring another emergency c-section, I will do everything possible to have as natural a birth as possible.

Anonymous said...

I actually think women tend to forget a lot of the details of giving birth as time passes. Maybe it's something nature built into us. Nature wants to convince us to have second and third and fourth babies....but likely lots of women would never do it again if they could remember the exact agony of number one!

Four out of five of my births were all natural. They were torture. The only spiritually uplifting moment for me was when I realized I had made it, I had survived, and here was a beautiful miracle baby who made it all worthwhile.

Anyway, I don't have any 'better' memories of the natural births than the one that was medicated (it wasn't epidural btw). I was too scared to take epidural but I know many a woman who has and who had a lovely, easy birth. They are the ones with the good memories!
Tammy

Mrs. Anna T said...

Dawn,

No, I'm not pregnant yet. :o) Really, I'm not. I did a pregnancy test yesterday and it was negative. But it might happen soon.


Tammy,

For me, I don't think it was the factor of time that helped me forget. The second the baby was out, I told my husband, "it wasn't too horrible, I can do it again!"

Anonymous said...

A c-section saved my first child's life and brain. The cord prolapsed when my water broke and the doctor did not realize it at first. I got to 10 cm and pushing with no medication before the nurse noticed by the fetal monitor he was losing oxygen and told the doctor. I was rushed into surgery as distress codes over the loudspeaker called emergency personnel from throughout the hospital to the OB ward to help us. The baby was delivered and given oxygen immediately. When I woke, the first thing I asked was if the baby made it. He did, and we were told he was fine until he still was not talking at all 18 months later. Years of speech therapy ensued, he is now a happy, healthy, normal boy, turning 10 in a few days! I can only imagine the damage he would have suffered without a c-section, if he had survived at all. These things happen and while "natural" birth is great, my son is here due to a c-section, as is my second child. I cannot have more children but I am so grateful for the c-sections. I suffered significant permanent damage due to attempt at a normal delivery before the c-section the first time, leading to a hysterectomy in my early 30s and lifelong bladder damage. If I had gone straight to a c-section, I would probably have been able to have a few more much-wanted children, I would not need medication to maintain continence and my son would most likely not have had speech problems. For some of us, a c-section is the only way we can have children. Everything I hear and read about the "unnecessary" c-sections is upsetting because there is always just a passing nod the the fact some are necessary. When you are the one it is necessary for, trust me, you are grateful for this much-maligned procedure. It saved me and my child and all discussions about it should be between a woman and her doctor. As for home births, my case is proof positive babies should be born in hospitals. With my first, it was a completely normal pregnancy until the day of delivery.

Thank you for allowing me to comment. I never tell our birth story but maybe more c-section mothers should so everyone will stop insinuating we went through something unncessary. Not that you are doing that, but so many do. It really adds insult to injury and leaves young mothers feeling terribly inadequate for doing the right thing for their babies.

Anonymous said...

I try to hold the whole process of child birth with a light hand and not set my expectations too high one way or another. God is in control of my life, and that includes my labor. If I had to have a C-Section, I wouldn't be devastated. A healthy baby is the goal, not my plans being realized. I think many American women try to plan every second and often come away frustrated and angry and not grateful for the baby they've just been given. I don't achieve this every time, but the more lightly I can hang on to my plans, the happier I am.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Thank God for c-sections when they are needed, but a rate of 25% in some hospitals is outrageously high.

The Whites said...

I felt the exact way about birth. But, before I was even married I knew I wanted a natural childbirth (after hearing about how my (at the time) soon-to-be mother in law had all 6 of her children unmedicated... I thought she was crazy and I was really disturbed why anyone would do that (I actually made my fiance (now husband) call her and ask her why!).

I think when you go into labor knowing that you have no other option except to do it without medication (that was my mindset at least) the pain is much less than if you go in thinking all will be smooth sails because you will get your epidural.

To me, the pain wasn't near what I expected it to be and I had a quick 5 hour labor (3 of those were pushing! apparently fast labors are harder because its so intense the whole time). I think if more women were told its not that bad, then they wouldn't be so scared to have a natural birth, but all they see is "A Baby Story" (a tv show about birth in america... that is normally a horrible depiction of how a natural birth can be) and think it must be unbearable.

Suzanne said...

I got an epidural and it was totally worth it. I got it at 10 centimeters (yes, you read that right) and it only worked on one side. She was born 30 minutes later. So until pushing, I had natural childbirth. My daughter was sunny side up and honestly, I cannot imagine pain any worse. I was gasping because I didn't have the strength to scream. (yes, I did Lamaze) I was literally praying for death. I would definitely get another epidural.

I'm glad a lot of women have great natural childbirth stories. But not all of us do. Could I do it again? Sure. But would I? Not if I had a choice. Given the choice, I'd pick the epi any day.

Anonymous said...

Anna,

Can you believe there is a hospital in my state where the c-section rate is--get this---65% !!! Unbelievable, but true! And ironically it is RIGHT across the street from my midwife's office/practice center! Good for you being so brave. -Leah

Lady M said...

With all 3 of my children, I had back labor - not due to position or anything like that. Just the way I was created - I kind of figured I might given all my cramps in the past were in my back and after thinking about what my mom had said about her labors years ago, she most likely had back labor as well. For my first 2, I essentially had natural labor/delivery, although, because of dropping heart rates, they both had the vacuum hat used to get them out safely. I should say, though for child #2, my water broke at home and because my labor stopped at the hospital (go figure, sigh), I had the tiniest bit of Pitocin to get them going again. And it certainly worked, but those are WICKED nasty painful contractions. My first child was a walk in the park in comparison. But, with both, I make it through with only a pain killer shot to take the edge off (seriously needed that with #2). Then, 7 years later, we are blessed enough to get to have baby #3 after losing 3 to miscarriage. I was on bedrest with him due to mild preeclampsia and thankfully, we made it to 38 weeks safely. And, I had a scheduled induction - that meant more Pitocin. Needless to say, I already knew what to expect and was not looking forward to it AND I had the added challenge of my blood pressure during labor. I got to 5 cm and my BP started going up (and the pain was like 3 times worse than with #2 - awful, awful, awful - I remember hanging onto the railing and crying with non-stop contractions). When my BP started going up, I had a decision to make - wing it without anything and risk us both or get an epidural and lower my BP back down (I am/was scared to death of ED because of the risks that go with them). My husband and I prayed right there for guidance and when the next contraction, I told them to get the anesthesiologist in there. He was an older gentleman who had over 4000 ED under his belt. He did it perfectly and was out of there in under 10 min. The relief was instantaineous. I relaxed (napped, lol) and Baby G was delivered less than 2 hours later. He was my easiest delivery - no vacuum hat or anything - came out as easy as you please. I now understand why women get epidurals. However, if I were get pregnant again and did not need medical intervention, I would not get an epidural. My SIL had had one 2 mos prior to me and it only worked on one side and because of baby positioning, she ended up with an emergency C-section - and because the epidural was not working right, they had to put her under. Ugh.

So, I guess I am trying to say that I see it from many, many POV. The thing that amazed me was the day I was induced, there was a flood of babies that day (they had to change my induction time, lol!). They told me that they had had to call and cancel all "optional" scheduled C-sections/inductions. I cannot imagine why one would volunteer for either of those things!! All I can say is OUCH.

Anonymous said...

Do you really care if another women has an epidural or c-section? Are you going to second-guess her and her medical providers decision? What point does this serve?

I didn't have an epidural, but I did have another type of pain medication (given to help me sleep...although the result that it relaxed me so much, I only slept for an hour and then it was time to have baby!).

I do think there is benefit in sharing birth stories to let other women know how a birth may be and hopefully reduce fears. But we can share without judgement. There should be no shame in use of medical interventions.

Nurse Bee

Anonymous said...

I want to agree with what Anonymous said about the sometime necessity of C-sections. I had planned for an all natural labor, had set my heart on it, really. But I never went into labor on my own, and once I was induced my son never descended - I labored for 16 hours without him budging, and his brain began to swell from being pushed against my pelvis, and his heartrate plummeted, and I ended up with a C-section and a healthy ten-pound baby with a pumpkin head. Everytime I hear or read "my body was made for this" I do sort of feel like there's something wrong with me, that maybe my body wasn't made for it, or maybe I didn't pray enough, or whatever. But I wasn't the victim of a Vast Medical Conspiracy - without the C-section my boy would never have come out, and would have died in utero. I am so thankful for my son, and thankful for the procedure that gave him to me. I'm not mindlessly following my doctor's advice, nor was I in a hurry or hoping for a painless or convenient birth, but there are a million posts and articles and stories about the benefits of natural childbirth, and it makes those of us for whom that wasn't an option (or at least me) feel guilty and sad sometimes, and quite irrationally. I know that's not the intention of your post, Anna, and I'm glad your experience went the way you hoped, but I did want to add another voice to this discussion, in case anyone else reading this shares these feelings of sorrow and disappointment from their own experience.
Gracie

Mrs. Anna T said...

Perhaps I should have made a disclaimer in the post, but it was so obvious to me...

Certainly there's no shame in medical interventions, sometimes they are needed and save lives. But they should be the exception, not the norm. I think over 90% of women here have epidurals. When I tell I didn't have one, I usually get a pair of wide eyes and a hushed "wow!" - why, though? If I'm healthy and the birth is progressing and the baby is not in distress, why *would* I be unable to give birth without an anaesthesiologist? That's what I meant.

Robin said...

I've had 3 children, and all births had differing levels of intervention. The first, my water broke naturally, but my labor didn't progress. My doctor induced labor with pitocin. I wanted to avoid other medications, but the pain was unbearable. From the moment my epidural kicked in, it was a wonderful experience. The baby was sleepy, but I was able to nurse her successfully immediately. It was wonderful!

My second was a scheduled induction. The baby was large, and they were concerned about waiting until my due date. From induction to delivery was only 3 hours. Again, I was able to nurse him successfully and comfort him as he was quite vocal! Unfortunately, the epidural didn't kick in this time until the baby was almost born, which made it serious waste of time and money. I was numb for many, many hours after he was born and couldn't even use the toilet alone until the next day, though he was born at noon. The hospital was short-staffed that night, so it was quite awful. I vowed that, if I were to ever get pregnant again, I would try very hard to avoid any interventions.

When I was 40, I found out I was expecting my 3rd. I ended up using a doula. I would have opted for a mid-wife if that had been an option with my insurance, but it wasn't. I ended up having the most wonderful experience. I was at home for most of the labor pains. I went through transition in the wee hours of the morning, alone, watching a movie. I didn't even know what was going on, really. The contractions were getting painful, but they weren't nearly as bad as when I'd been induced. We ended up having to call 911 for an ambulance, because I felt the baby begin to crown. I made it to the hospital minutes before he was born. The only intervention was breaking my water. If that had happened spontaneously, I would have probably had him at home or in the ambulance.

Fortunately, for me, none of the interventions seemed to stall the progress of the births. I was older when I became pregnant with my first child, so maybe I was less nervous than I would have been as a younger woman.

I'm so glad your first experience was as good as it was. With my third, my doctors warned me not to take too much stock in the fact that my first two births went so quickly, but it couldn't have been nicer. If I do it again, I assure you I will not be alone, watching a movie, if I start feeling labor pains!! I seem to labor very quickly!!

Anonymous said...

I assumed you meant no harm by your post as you are no doubt a very kind and wise person. But it does seem to me that it is women who have not had or needed a c-section who comment on how often they are done "needlessly". I got "well-meaning" comments from some after my first that insinuated I could not handle birth when I had nearly died along with my baby! I had no doubt that the news stories at the time about unnecessary c-sections were being used to justify the comments. Some women do seem to delight in making others feel inferior and that is a very sensitive subject. My personal feeling, having had two, is that there are more c-sections and fewer tragedies. Babies are being born by c-section that otherwise would have been lost or severely damaged.

My husband and I were born in a time in America when the c-section rate was very low and forceps were used in both our deliveries to get us out. My father was so horrified by my appearance, with a severely bruised and dented head and face that he became distraught when he saw me in the nursery and had to be reassured I would be fine. Not a nice memory for him at all. We have stories on both sides of the family of women laboring for days, of babies who came out blue. That used to be a real term - "blue baby". The women who told me these stories looked pained about it many decades later. Their pain was not "soon forgotten" as their mothers told them it would be.

I do not mean to offend, only to offer a view from the other side. The best thing is for everyone to understand every situation is different and do the best they can in their own circumstance. While stories of natural births abound, the stories of c-sections are often less happy, less acceptable, and therefore, not shared. I felt if I shared my story or complained at all about how much pain I was in, I would be seen as attempting to justify the surgery or my perceived weakness. So, I walked around with the huge wound healing, exhausted and in pain for weeks, trying to care for a new baby I could not even lift and afraid to ask for help as it would only invite more judgment. If there were more c-section stories, perhaps there would be more understanding.

Robin said...

I hadn't read the comments before I posted my first comment, but I didn't read any judgement in your post regarding interventions or c-sections. I tend to agree with your position. Obviously, if I had needed a c-section, I would have gotten one.

It's a good thing when a woman can go into labor and has a low risk of dying in childbirth. That hasn't always been the case.

Bethany Hudson said...

Anna- You know how I feel, dear :) Btw...I finally posted James' birth story at The Cider Mill. Stop by to check it out, if you have time: http://applecidermama.blogspot.com/2009/07/james-birth-story.html
~Bethany

jiabaoyu said...

I've heard many, many women who tell me it was great they got epidurals during pregnancy and many that say the pain of childbirth was excruciating. The only people I've heard who enjoyed a truly natural (med-free) birth have been online.

Anna, I believe you are the lucky minority that had a great med-free experience. I think most women would rather avoid pain if possible.

If you were to ask mothers whether they prefer giving birth with epidural or without, the majority would probably say with the pain meds. Technology makes our lives easier, and just because a medical procedure is not absolutely necessarily does not mean that it is not welcomed. Medicine is used not only to prolong life but to improve our quality of life. Is it too hard to imagine that some women do not want to withstand the pain of childbirth? IMHO, it's only human to want to avoid pain.

As for how harmful epidural is...just remember everything you ingest or do carries risk. We have people at our hospital who are hospitalized int the burn center after having a bad reaction from penicillin (their skin can fall off). But just because 1 in a 10 million people may have a negative affect doesn't mean we should discontinue a procedure/med, especially if such medication can alleviate suffering.

Interestingly, I had a friend who complained that her OB was too late in advocating a C-section. After 12 hours of pushing, it was decided the baby's position made a C-section necessary. Instead of being thankful the OB at least tried to do a natural birth, my friend was annoyed that she had to undergo 12 hours of labor. So not everyone enjoys going through natural childbirth---some just want the baby out!

As for me, I'm pretty sure I will not enjoy the whole pregnancy/childbirth and will opt for the path of least resistance. Sign me up to be a epidural gal!

Sylvia said...

Anna,

Out of all the things you said the one thing that jumped out at me was

I am already waiting to find out how next time goes ?

* Smile*

Anna, is Shira going to become a big sister soon ?

God bless you,
Lydia.

Gothelittle Rose said...

Ohhh I can give you the worst combination there is: Pitocin with no pain relief. Unfortunately, with both my labors, it was needed. For the first, my water was leaking, but my contractions were not strong and they feared an infection. For the second, she had the cord around her neck and had to be delivered FAST once she had dropped into place. The midwife actually made me start pushing at 9cm.

As a result, I have ended up with two beautiful, healthy babies and no c-sections at all. (When you need it, you need it, but I prefer to avoid it if not medically Necessary!)

Pitocin is nasty stuff, though. It'll speed up your labor, yes, but the contractions HURT! I never asked for pain meds in either labor until I had the pitocin. Never had the epidural, though. Stadol was enough.

Audrey said...

I had a fully medicated birth with my daughter, who is a few days away from turning 2. The nurses administered pitocin 20 minutes upon arrival at the hospital, broke my water 3 hours later, and told me that an epidural would help me relax and dilate faster. Then, after an hour and a half of unsuccessful pushing, I was wheeled into the OR for a C-section. Notice a pattern here? EVERY ONE of these interventions was to "speed things along".
Now, I'm 25 weeks pregnant with my second, and I switched hospitals, switched from an OB to a midwife (an hour away), got a doula, watched documentaries, and read book after book on natural birth. Now I'm more educated, and I KNOW what happens when you don't speak up and say "Hey, I don't want that intervention". I'm going for a VBAC this time and the reason I switched from my OB was because I KNOW I can have a successful, natural, intervention-free vaginal birth after cesarean... my OB didn't think I could do it... but she was going to let me try! Unfortunately, I didn't want a doctor who would "humor" me, I wanted one who believed in me.
So now I'm setting myself up for success. I don't know what it's like there, but in America, it's darn near impossible to have an intervention-free hospital birth. I can't have a home birth because there are no homebirth midwives in the area who will touch me since I'm having a VBAC. But I'm setting myself up for success even though I'll be in the hospital.
It's all about being educated and having adequate support, and someone to advocate for you in labor (a doula is great for this). Someone to step in and say "Wait, didn't you say you didn't want pitocin?" When you can't hardly think.
Natural birth is just as much mental as it is physical.... preparation is EVERYTHING!

Audrey said...

Oh, and in America, the C-section rate is around 30% in the US (higher in some areas.... that's the average number). Only 8% of births are attended by midwives... the rest by OBGYNs. But the US has the second highest maternal and fetal death rates in the developed world. Coincidence? I don't think so!

Anonymous said...

I have had two vaginal births with two epidurals. I was the one screaming for the anesthesiologist. I took all the drugs they would give me.

I say more power to you if you go natural. It'll certainly save you some money and maybe some time in pushing the baby out, but please don't make us moms who didn't feel bad.

I tried to go natural with my second baby, but I couldn't handle the pain. It was not spiritual or enjoyable or anything. It hurt a LOT. I hated it. I felt like a failure and a loser. My mom had four children all natural, and she always looks down on me for not going natural. She doesn't say out loud, but I can tell the way she looks at me. But when the baby arrives, you forget all that and I was simply EXHILARATED to see my new son. I have never been happier in my whole entire life than to gaze on his sweet new face.

With my second child, labor started at 5:30 in the morning and I didn't go into the hospital until 7:00 pm that night. Baby arrived at 11:45 pm. I probably got the epi around 9pm.

Yes, I think women should be informed of the risks and find a hospital/birth center or whatever situation that she founds supports her decisions and preferences for care. My hospital did not push the drugs, they simply told me my options, and left it at that. My hospital was also very pro-breastfeeding and said prayers over the intercom (which helped me tremendously during labor better than the drugs).

However, if a woman chooses to do something to alleviate the pain, I don't think she should be made to feel like a dirtbag. We use pain medication and pain management for everything else, but a mother is not "really" a mother if she uses medication to help her cope with labor. This is not fair and not supportive. I'm not saying you're doing this because I know from lurking on your blog that you are just passionate about this subject, but it can be a sensitive issue for some.

I think getting the baby out and having a healthy mom and baby -- the end result as you say is the most important thing.

Thanks for your thoughts on this and letting others speak their minds as well.

cmoursler said...

wow, I was the opposite. I went through 38 hours of "natural childbirth". I finally caved and went with an epidural. It allowed my body to relax enough to have the baby. From the time I got the epi (I was a 6) to the time I delivered was an hour and a half. Up to that point, it had been 38 hours of torture. I also said I would never have my baby use a pacifier. Well, I had never met a baby with a "strong suck reflex" before. I just thought that mother's who used pacifiers were lazy. My oldest never had one. My youngest popped out, and she kept sucking on everything, my cheek, her little arm. I kept trying to breastfeed her but she wasn't hungry every half hour. It was constant. When she latched on to my nose I called for help and got a pacifier. We took it away at six months. Never say never. I homeschool, but would never say that is the only way to raise a child or insinuate that the mother who doesn't is just foisting her kid off on others to raise. When I was younger I knew more. I am older now, and realize I know less than most. God Bless.
smiles,
chris

Mrs. Anna T said...

Many times, I heard the comparison between natural birth and having your teeth drilled with no painkillers. Sorry, but it's comparing apples to oranges. At the dentist's, you don't need to *do* anything. While birthing, being active, alert and tuned in to your body can make a tremendous difference.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Audrey, I'm so sorry to hear about your experience. I hope you can have a VBAC successfully and naturally. My neighbour had a VBAC about a month before I had Shira (yes, we were bumping bellies :o)), and she was over the moon with joy about it. She is young and dreams of a large family and a second c-section would pretty much doom that dream!

Lydia, read my comment above... I took a pregnancy test and it was negative. :o)

CappuccinoLife said...

You know what's sad? Every time you post something about *your* experience, people come out of the woodwork to denigrate it. Why not rejoice with Anna, ladies? She did not *need* interventions, and in her case interventions would have *added* risk for her and her baby because they would have been unnecessary. That she was able to have labor and delivery without interventions and with mother and baby ending up healthy is a WONDERFUL thing.

It is also a WONDERFUL thing that when there is a dire need, we have the means to deal with it medically.

But why must Anna be "nuts" or compared to a silly person who has dental work without pain meds because birth worked for her?

Anna, in spite of all the people who take offense, I hope you know that there are many of us who think you are have a perfectly reasonable and balanced viewpoint. Be grateful for medical intervention when needed, avoid it when not needed. It's simple, and it's not a judgement of others.

CappuccinoLife said...

Now, for my experiences:
#1-went into labor on my own, medicated with stadol. I don't remember pain but I do remember the meds making me completely loopy and I was totally out of control. I will never, never let them use that on me again.

#2-17 days overdue, went into labor on my own. That labor was hard work but I do not remember pain, per se. No interventions, healthy mom, healthy baby.

#3-17 days overdue again. That one hurt like the dickens and I remember it very clearly Still no interventions, healthy mom, healthy baby.

In all three cases if I had taken medical advice, I would have had unnecessary inductions, or c-sections. My middle child, I was pushed heavily for a c-section because of his size and the doctor said when I refused "Well, you'll never get him out. Guess I'll see you in the OR".

So yes, I absolutely, positively feel I have the right, the responsibility, and the medical backup to QUESTION an individual doctor's advice on birth. More women should arm themselves to question because doctors are not all-knowing, they are not gods, and sometimes they are just flat out *wrong* to the detriment of the women they're caring for.

CappuccinoLife said...

Sorry for so many comments, but Anna in one of your comments you mentioned c-sections and large families.

For those of us who hope for larger families, this is a major reason we are so motivated to avoid c-sections. Women can and do have many multiple sections, but the fact is that each one puts a woman and her baby at more risk, and of course the more the has the more pressure she will be under to stop.

C-sections simply are not equivalent in the risk/benefit balance to natural birth. There are times when they are genuinely necessary, but those are times when the risk to the mother/baby outweighs the risk of major surgery. Without a major medical need, natural birth is far, far less risky than surgical birth.

Anonymous said...

Every woman is different, and each labor is different again. I tend to share my birth stories only when it seems necessary to reassure a first time pregnant woman that she's not doomed to repeat the horror stories she's been told.
I've had 5 children, all quite differently. I am extremely fortunate that my labors are not painful, so I don't need pain medication. (I failed to notice my fourth labor at all, and ended up delivering the baby solo at home - she had two loops of cord around her neck, but it was long enough that it wasn't a problem.) I understand completely that other women's labors are excruciatingly painful, even to the degree that they stall until some measure of relief is attained. I'm not "tough", it simply doesn't hurt.
My fifth labor was induced after monitoring indicated there might be a problem. In less than an hour it became an emergency C-section. I was not at all happy about the way things were going, but I'd been with the same doctor for 14 years, and I trusted her. Before the baby could be pulled all the way out, FIVE loops of cord had to be unwrapped from her neck. Nobody knew this was the problem until that moment, and the remaining cord was not long enough for a vaginal delivery. I was relieved and grateful that I had a surgical option. (She's fine.) It was a miserably painful recovery though, my hat goes off to those women who have repeat C-sections. I didn't want all the pain medications afterwards, but I simply could not cope without them.

On a different note, my husband usually has his teeth drilled without medication because he tends to chew his mouth to pieces while it's still numb. He says that if the dentist will drill slowly enough to avoid heat building up, it doesn't hurt (and he's definitely not "tough" so it must be true!)

Anonymous said...

I'm always a little surprised that whenever you do a post on breastfeeding or natural birth that you often get comments from women who feel you are being judgmental. I have had a vaginal birth (but with painkillers) with my first who ended up on formula and a c-section (emergency) with the second who is still breastfeeding at 18 months. I don't feel bad about either birth or about either feeding method. I haven't had a truly natural birth with no painkillers but I still enjoy reading about women who do. Just because someone does things different than you doesn't imply that you are doing it wrong. :) ~Erica

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,
I've been thinking a lot about why this was bothering me, and here's what I came up with: I'm really, really glad that you had a beautiful, uplifting spiritual and emotional experience with your labor and delivery. I really am. I think, however, that a birth like you describe is not the lot of many women, as much as we, too, aspire to it. For most of us, as I understand it, it is hours of the worst imaginable pain - best case scenario. For many of us, it involves unwanted, unintended complications and the associated disappointment, self-doubt and guilt. For some of us it involves heartbreak. The assumption that a totally natural, peaceful delivery in which you have the presence of mind to pray or sing psalms through your contractions can happen for anyone, or most anyone, seems to me to be a stretch. It's not that people aren't informed; there's a boatload of information available everywhere today, and at least in my part of the US, the culture is very, very pro-natural birth. And it's not that we're cowards afraid of pain, or too busy to go into labor on God's schedule, preferring instead to schedule a C-section around our work schedule. It's just that you were incredibly, incredibly fortunate - you have a birth story that most would envy, and it seems like you don't realize how blessed and fortunate you are in that way - you seem to think that with the right information/doula/spiritual fibre/whatever a birth like you had would be the norm, and I'm just not convinced that it would. See, too, the curse in Genesis ;-)
I truly am glad that it all went so smoothly for you, and I urge you to be very very thankful for such a blessing.
Gracie

Michelle Potter said...

In regards to necessary and unnecessary c-sections. Out of my five biological children I have had two c-sections. My youngest baby was born by a completely necessary c-section. Though I am an advocate of natural childbirth and have extremely negative feelings about my first c-section (which I will explain in a moment), I have never regretted my second one for even a moment. It saved my son and myself, and I am grateful for that.

However, my first baby was born by unnecessary c-section. My doctor pressured me into an epidural that I didn't want (the nurses even snapped at my husband for coming to my defense when I said I didn't want it!), then the anesthesiologist messed up so badly that I was unable to move and could not push. I finally consented to a c-section before passing out from the drugs that had been pushed on me. It was a terrible experience.

Furthermore, after having had one c-section I was told repeatedly by different doctors that I would never be able to have a baby vaginally. Even in the middle of giving birth to my second child I was told I would need to give up and have a c-section. If I had listened, I would have had THREE more unnecessary c-sections: my second, third, and fourth children were all born VBAC, healthy and happy.

The c-section rate in my city is 30%. And, yes, I do care about whether or not other women have unnecessary c-sections. Doctors and hospitals who perform or allow unnecessary c-sections are HURTING women and their babies. It's been in the news here lately about how doctors are pushing to do planned c-sections so early that if they slightly miscalculate the due date, babies end up in the NICU because of underdeveloped lungs. My own son (the youngest one), had a gash in his head from the surgical knife. That was a small price since he really needed to be born by c-section, but if it had been unnecessary he'd have been cut for no reason.

I'm 100% in favor of necessary medical intervention, including c-sections. It's only when it's unnecessary that it's harmful and wrong.

Summer said...

Hi Anna,

I just finished a post today on how the book "Birth Skills" by Juju Sundin helped me have a natural birth.

You can read the post here if you are interested:

http://summer-at-home.blogspot.com/2009/07/birth-skills-by-juju-sundin.html

Summer

Mrs. Anna T said...

Michelle, what you describe is a perfect example of a very common unncessary intervention. Of course if a woman is firmly set on not having epidural, the doctors will probably back off - no one can make you to. But, if you aren't sure and the doctors push it, it's so easy to give in. I'm so sorry you've had two C-sections now, because probably every doctor will tell you there's no way you can have a vaginal birth again. I've heard of women who did it, but most doctors won't risk it.

Anonymous said...

Anna, I too am truly glad that you had such a wonderful birth experience. Truly. And I wholeheartedly agree that the unnecessary medicalisation of birth can be a disempowering, harmful thing on numerous levels. Also, I want to compliment you on the fact that you allow dissenting views onto your blog comments. Not everybody does this and it's brave.

But I do wonder whether it is appropriate for those of us who have relatively little experience of childbirth to formulate and express such strong views in public.

Your post sounds as though it could have been written by me after the birth of my first child. I too had a good birth experience. I refused an induction at 10 days overdue and went into labour naturally the next day. Those 17 hours were excruciatingly painful, of course, and hard work. But I birthed without meds or interventions, just riding the pain with a focussed mind and controlled breathing, the birthing pool and the support of my dh and midwife. I emerged from hospital exhilarated and incredulous that anybody would willingly forgo such a painful but empowering and emotional experience. I became a champion of natural childbirth, outraged at the fact that many of my peers were duped, as I saw it, into accepting epidurals and drugs as part of a 'normal' birth experience.

Fast forward to the birth of my second child. I was confident that I would be able to cope in exactly the same way as before, anticipating a similar pattern of contractions building up, transition, an hour or two of pushing. Of course I *knew* that some people experienced short, sharp labours, but this seemed relatively uncommon so I didn't give it much thought. In fact, my second child was born naturally in four hours: two hours of sporadic, relatively painless build up and two hours of the most terrifying, dramatic, uncontrollable, constant and indescribable agony you can imagine. It was like the 17 hours of my first birth compressed into a short space of time with no let-up. I probably sounded like that screaming, panicking woman you describe in the hospital where you birthed. Breathing, birthing balls, pools or whatever did not and could not have helped in any way. Absolutely no way that I could have retained the focus for long enough to talk, let alone pray. I was already exhausted, having been up all day and much of the previous night with my toddler. And, although expecting a shorter labour with my second I had no idea, of course, how long this ordeal was going to last. Another six hours? Ten?

I now understand why many women prefer to birth with pain relief and have modified my views somewhat :-)

I eventually demanded an epidural NOW and my wonderful midwife insisted that I try something less invasive first. Just after I had a shot of pethadine, our baby was born. I was overjoyed to have avoided an epidural and that our baby was born before the pethidine took effect and got to her (I felt woozy for the first half hour after her birth though). But, the birth left me feeling utterly traumatised. I had flashbacks and panic attacks. Perhaps it wouldn't have done if I'd accepted pain relief, even an epidural, earlier. But the fact is that I'm now facing the birth of baby number three with a sense of dread and anxiety rather than confidence and excitement. I'll still aim to get through it naturally, of course, and now have a more realistic idea of how birthing pain can feel. But I no longer like to make assumptions about how other women experience pain or how they can or should manage it.

Kate said...

Two very touchy subjects for mothers....giving birth and breastfeeding. Even with the best intentions someone gets offended.

I went all natural with my two. A few things helped this...I had the determination and mindset to do this, I had small babies, and they came early and FAST. I kinda like having that bragging point, but truth be told, the thought of having a needle shoved in my spine is 100 times worse than the thought of labor pains for me.

I had a miscarriage with an emergency D&C where I had to have a spinal (like an epidural, but it isn't left in). One of the risks is having the coat around your spinal cord peirced and your spinal/brain fluid leaks out. This happened to me and I ended up with a week long spinal migrane. I'll take the labor pains any day!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon,

I realize labor and birth are different for every woman. I'm not against women getting interventions when they need to, want to, and are informed of the risks. I'm against inductions being pushed because the woman "needs to get it over with" and epidurals that are for the staff's convenience (no screaming and panting women).

Lady Violet said...

Anna, I agree with what you have said. I know many women DO need intervention but I think for the majority, medical "professionals" take advantage of birthing women. They play on their emotions in order to get them to do whatever is best for the provider, not the mother and child. Thank goodness for technology when we need it...but it's a curse when we don't. Intervention, even the slightest, can CAUSE so many problems that then need remedied by even more intervention. I am hoping and praying to have children at home, without intervention. If the day comes and I really, truly have an emergency, I will accept help and know that it doesn't make me any less of a mother.

Kate said...

Good for you!!! I'm so glad I found out about midwives before I began having children! Fantastic post about the natural way!

åslaug abigail said...

There's something very empowering in the thought that God made your body with the ability to bring a baby into this world, from start (conception, which happens on its own) to finish (birth).

I wholeheartedly agree with you on this one. I couldn't have said it better myself =) =)