I wrote this on April 5, 2008, my oldest son's 8th birthday. I've edited names.
8 Years Ago Today: A Journey of Birth Choices Part I
Eight years ago today, my oldest son was born. His name is M-. He's an awesome kid and we're so glad to have him in our lives! :)
On April 4, 2000 I went in to the hospital to be induced. I was 39 wks and 4 days pregnant, exhausted, and really ready to see this baby! So on the morning of April 5, 2000 my doctor broke my water with a giant plastic crochet hook. That was weird. I went through the course of the day in pain from the contractions, nobody encouraged me to walk around, so I just laid there in the bed in pain, unable to focus, and kind of nervous because this is NOT how my mother's homebirth went. They kept offering me an epidural but I kept refusing. I did not want drugs, I wanted to do this on my own because I knew I could, and I'm terrified of needles. Finally around 3:30 in the afternoon I was offered drugs for the 3rd time and I asked what they had. Stadol and Demorol. I asked a little bit about them, what the effects would be, and if either would take the edge off. Neither would, but I finally relented to the demorol because I didn't know what else to do and nobody informed me that WALKING would help. I ended up sleeping between contractions and that was really unhelpful. I woke when I heard the staff setting up metal instruments at the foot of my bed. That scared me. Metal does not belong in the human body. Around 7 or so the dr came in and said it was almost time to push. When I finally got to pushing, it was soon realized that the baby appeared to be having trouble exiting so the doctor felt a vacuum extractor was the best option. I was given an episiotomy (google that), the vacuum was inserted, and I was told push while the doctor pulled. The baby came out very quickly. In addition to the episiotomy, I also tore and the doctor classified it as a partial 3rd degree episiotomy. The episiotomy would have been avoided if I had been told to walk. Gravity would work FOR me in that case and pull the baby down through the correct opening. Instead I had been lying on my back and gravity was pulling down and the opening needed to be artificially (and unnecessarily) enlarged.
When the baby was born it cried and hollered a lot. I did not know what I would be having, so I asked several times, "What is it?" Finally the doctor told me, "It's a boy!" YAAAY! His name was M-. He kept crying and I would talk to him, "What's the matter, baby? What's wrong? It's ok!" The staff mistook this for me questioning what they were doing and someone curtly replied, "He's fine." They weighed and measured him and everyone was exclaiming that he was so big! He weighed a whopping 9lb 8oz and was 21 inches long! The nurses joked that he was as big as a 3 month old. :) They finally laid him on my chest and as soon as he saw me he stopped crying. Soon the doctor had to stitch me up so baby M- went off to the nursery. My husband went with him and his mother took pictures of them both through the glass. I soon passed out because of the demorol still in my system and the excessive blood loss. The doctor informed me that I lost more than twice the normal amount. I didn't wake up again until midnight, when a nurse's aide came to escort me to my room. I was exhausted, had an IV pole w/ a bag of fluids hanging from it, and could barely walk. I should have had a wheelchair. I would wake when the nurses brought me my baby. I had told them to bring him to me when he wakes up so I could nurse him. We had the option of rooming in, but I felt safer with him in the nursery and he was the only baby in the maternity ward. He nursed about every 2 hours or so and they would take my temperature, give me meds (if needed), and check my stitches and stuff. I left the hospital 2 days later in severe pain from the episiotomy, but otherwise doing very well. For 6 months, though, I could not engage in intimate activity w/ my husband because of the pain from the episiotomy and M- had a bump on his head for 2 yrs because of the vacuum extractor. The bump is gone and I have no pain now, but those events prompted me to seek out midwife-assisted homebirth with my daughter when I became pregnant with her. Events during her birth prompted me to seek similar care with my youngest, T-. Just 2 months before my due date with T-, however, I chose to continue my prenatal care by myself and to birth with only my husband in attendance. Self Care during that pregnancy and birth turned out to be the best decision for me and the baby.
Eight Years Ago Today: A Journey of Birth Choices Part II
After M- was born and the nurses were weighing, measuring, and cleaning him up, I was given a warmed blanket that felt absolutely glorious! I did not realize how chilled I was until I had that blanket on me. I lay there under that cozy blanket recovering from a very shocking experience after the birth.
In hospitals, doctors will massage your abdomen with a lot of pressure and force. This process is to force the placenta out. Doctors also frequently pull on the cord, which is known as cord traction. This is not a safe procedure, as it can cause your uterus to invert or even come right out of your body.
I was not spared this painful procedure. I yelled at the doctor several times to STOP what he was doing, give me a minute to gather myself. He refused. I know he felt he was doing what was necessary, and I would have consented had I been given a moment to gather myself.
When my daughter R- was born the midwife followed the same process, except that she was very gentle in the massage and when I told her not to pull the cord, she stopped.
The placenta WILL come off the uterus on it's own in due time. Sometimes it can be hours before it does that. There is no reason for someone to force it. It's not a retained placenta. It's the woman's body doing its job in its time.
While I was being mauled and then stitched up, which took about 30 minutes, my lovely baby was in the nursery being cleaned and dressed. One thing they felt he needed was a bottle of sugar water to check if he was diabetic. He was not. I would have preferred that he not have been given a bottle, but I see no reason to get upset over it. Again, the medical personnel were doing what they'd been taught and what they felt was best.
I often find when reading birth stories that doctors and even some midwives treat birth as something that needs to be fixed. If women and medical personnel would stop and think, they would hopefully realize that birth does not need to be fixed. Birth is not broken. It is the perception of the medical community that needs to be fixed.
Women are often given cesarean sections due to "failure to progress." In reality, is it really just failure to wait? The body DOES know what to do. Sometimes guidance is needed and that's ok. But we need to stop being so anxious and fearful of life.
There is no reason for routine cesarean sections, for cord traction, for routine infant circumcision, for routine episiotomies, for not breastfeeding. We have been created whole. We have been created perfectly. Why are we trying to improve on what God has made? Who are we to think that we can do better?
Yes, it's true that there are instances where a cesarean birth or maybe even an episiotomy is necessary for the safety of mother and child. In those cases, THANK GOD that doctors and hospitals exist. But largely, women CAN and WILL birth their children on their own without the interference of medical personnel. Women and doctors both need to trust that.