This post is not written to make anyone feel bad about their own birthing experience, just observations I’ve made as women and men tell me their birth stories and make judgements on my choice to birth at home with out drugs.
People think I’m a bit odd sometimes when they hear I’ve had my babies at home. “Not in the hospital!” Their eyes bug out a little bit, a hand may go to their chest and they exclaim, “At home….with no drugs.”
I smile, shake my head and say, “It was really awesome. I’m looking forward to the next one at home.”
They will often say, “I can’t imagine giving birth without the drugs. I’m not a martyr.”
The martyr comment bugs me. I’m not a martyr for not wanting drugs, more, just scared of the hospital and all the normal protocols and interventions that come with it.
My normal birthing time is fairly boring. I hope with the next birth that no one really touches me, except for counter pressure on my lower back and butt. For most women, their births in the hospital and sometimes even at home are filled with intervention after intervention. Their births are not normal to me. Normal for me is: I start feeling downward pressure in my uterus. It starts to radiate around my back, maybe down in my thighs. I have to breathe through the pressure waves. With Nick’s birth, there were no vaginal exams….throughout the entire pregnancy. I could visualize my cervix opening up, bigger and bigger. I remember feeling like I had a black hole, opening up inside me. Saying the words “peace” and “breathe” to myself, on hands and knees on a twin bed. Such strong pressure, down, down, down, my cervix opening up more and more with each breath that I exhaled. For a moment, understanding how some women would not be able to handle these sensations, especially if they didn’t understand what was going on in their body. Then getting into the wonderful water. Yes, a kiddie pool, with fishies all around me. The water slowly filling up the pool as another pressure wave comes over me. The wave crashing down on me internally. Then the urge to push becomes unbearable. I’m grunting, starting to bear down. Realizing that my birth team is not there. It panics me in the moment, but my husband is calm. I reach down, feeling the amniotic sac, Nick is still inside it. It bubbles out, the urge to push is so strong, I try to breathe out, “pssssttttt, pssstttt”, but then his body slips out and he is in my arms. This birth still replays in my head frequently. Liam’s birth was awesome, but Nick’s was so much more. No one had to interfere with this birth. I didn’t have an audience watching me. Just me and my husband. It was perfect. We get out of the tub, cord still attached. Nick starts to nurse while I sit on the twin bed. In awe that this happened so quickly. The midwife arrives, I push the placenta out into a bowl. Mom is healthy, baby is healthy.
Here is a composite of stories other women tell me about their births:
They question whether it is really time to birth, so they go to their doctor or midwife and get “checked.” They sometimes opt to hear how far dilated they are. They’re 3 cm, maybe even four cm. The doctor says, things are progressing, let’s admit you to the hospital. The woman doesn’t even really feel like she is in labor, but the doctor knows best so she goes in. She gets to the hospital. She fills out paperwork, answering lots of questions, even though they sent in their pre-admittance forms. They do some blood work, for just in case she needs a c-section. She hops up on a bed and has fetal monitors strapped around her belly. An I.V. is started. Mom is advised that she doesn’t need to eat or drink anything and really shouldn’t in case she needs a c-section. She has fluids going into her anyway via the I.V. She doesn’t even feel the contractions, but the nurses keep telling her they are coming regularly. She’s been there an hour or two, she gets checked again. She is still just four centimeters dilated. “Let’s get this thing moving along a bit,” the nurse says per doctors standard protocol. They start a line of pitocin. The contractions become more frequent, and start to get more uncomfortable. Another vaginal exam to check progress. Only dilated to 5 centimeters and it has been two hours on pitocin. Not enough progress according to the nurse, doctors ordered at least 1 centimeter an hour.
Doctor comes in, “We may have to do a c-section if you don’t start dilating more regularly.” The mom hasn’t really gotten up and moved around to even help move the baby down, allowing gravity to do its work. Contractions are getting more uncomfortable. Mom decides to get an epidural. Mom has to sit perfectly still, leaning forward for them to place the epidural. Then she gets a catheter inserted into her urethra and a pressure probe into her vagina to see how strong the contractions are. She may even have a blood pressure cuff attached to her arm. Mom feels pretty good right now, but feels a little itchy and the epidural only seems to work on her left side. The nurse keeps having the mom move to the right and to the left to try and get the epidural to work on all sides. It doesn’t. Mom doesn’t have complete relief like she thought she would. Her blood pressure goes down a little bit. Her contractions slow with the epidural. Nurse does another vaginal exam. She is 6 centimeters. Fantastic, but it has been an hour and a half to get that far. Doctor wants mom to progress at least 1 centimeter an hour. It is about 3 pm in the afternoon. Nurse relays that if the mom hasn’t dilated to 10 centimeters by 5:30, the doctor may want to do a c-section. They up the pitocin.
Baby’s heart rate is not tolerating the contractions very well. They have mom lay on her left side. That helps a bit. Thirty minutes later, they do another vaginal exam. They say, if we break the water, it may make the baby come faster. They break the water and insert an internal fetal monitor into the mom. This means they screw a little tiny screw into the babies scalp. Contractions pick up, mom dilates like the doctor wants. Mom still has some feeling on the one side, but the anesthesiologist is in surgery right now. They offer her some other pain medication. Nurse does another vaginal exam. She smiles. Mom is complete, at ten centimeters. The mom is now allowed to push. Mom tries to push, but can’t really feel enough to know if she is doing it correctly. Baby’s heart rate isn’t looking too good. Keep pushing mom. Push hard. An hour later, the doctor comes in. It is 5:45 pm. The doctor says, “you need to push better. This baby needs to get out otherwise we are going to do a c-section right now.”
The mom prays, pushing with all her might. Baby is still not coming down the birth canal in the right way. The doctor says, “I can help get the baby out if you don’t know how.” Room fills with nurses, residents and whoever else can come learn. Doctor cuts an episiotomy in the mom’s perineum. He gets out the vacuum extractor. Doctor can feel the baby’s head in the birth canal. He attaches the vacuum and starts to suction the baby out. Mom’s perineum tears more from where the episiotomy was cut. She doesn’t feel it though. All she wants is to see her baby. She wants her baby to be healthy and safe and the monitor keeps indicating that baby’s heart rate isn’t doing well. Mom pushes with all she can, doctor pulls and pulls. Nurses are shouting, “Push, Push, Push.” Dad is saying it too. Baby comes out. Baby is limp. Doctor cuts the cord immediately. Baby is rushed over to the nurses to be checked out. Baby is having a hard time. Baby is rubbed vigorously, then a breathing mask placed over the face. Mom can’t hear the baby, she is scared to death. Mom is bleeding decently. Hopefully it is just from the episiotomy, it is hard to tell. She feels a little faint. Mom blacks out. Baby is okay now, just needs to stay under the warmers for observation. Baby gets heel pricked to test blood sugar levels, baby gets first vaccination, Hepatitis B, baby gets eye ointment in eyes, baby gets bathed and wrapped up tight. Nurse massages the mom’s abdomen; doctor provides traction on the cord, trying to get the placenta to come out. Doctor fortunately doesn’t pull too hard. Placenta comes out, intact. Mom is exhausted, baby is okay, mom is healthy, baby is healthy. That’s all that matters.
Which way would you choose? Have you heard these stories before? Is this your story? I can’t see how my home birth without interventions sounds so crazy anymore. I’m not crazy for wanting a no intervention birth, I’m definitely not a martyr.