Monday, August 20, 2012

1,001 ways to birth































now that we are getting settled into our new home, i finally feel like i can turn my energy towards preparing for our new baby's arrival.

i always assumed that i would have a home birth. my sister had three of her children at home and, through her, i was tapped in at a very young age to a wonderful network of midwives who specialized in home births in seattle. we visited seattle when i was 27 weeks pregnant and i introduced my husband to a midwife i deeply admire. by the end of our time with her he was a believer. we were definitely having the baby at home.

but the thing was...the place we were living didn't really feel like home. we had moved to los angeles a year before and i was working a stifling job that hadn't allowed me to really settle in to the area, let alone, create a sense of home. i barely knew anyone and found my doctor recommendation through a co-worker.  i was seeing a doctor at cedars-sinai up until 26 weeks at which point i asked about birthing tubs. he looked at me with a blank stare and said that we would discuss my birth plan at 35 weeks. that was the last conversation we had.

if we weren't going to do it at home, we knew we had to prepare ourselves for the next best thing. like many first time mamas, i read every book, toured birthing centers, interviewed midwives and doulas, and took multiple birthing classes in preparation of my first little one's arrival. i turned all my intentions on having a beautiful birthing experience in the most unlikely of places. a hospital.

i started touring hospitals and came across an amazing one in downtown los angeles. tiny really. but tiny doesn't have the bureaucracy of a big hospital and that's what i was looking for. my goal was to have an unmedicated birth with little to no intervention, but most of all, be in arm's reach of a NICU in the event there were any complications. i ended up with a doctor (instead of a mid-wife) who is well-loved and known for his openness to women birthing the way they envision. for me that meant walking about, eating ice-chips or whatever i fancied, with a doula, little fetal monitoring, no mention of pain medication, no episiotomy, at my own pace.

elodie finally came to us after twelve hours of labor (eight of which i was at home) with no epidural, no pitocin, and little intervention. i can count the number of times i had to lie down to be monitored. it was intense, it was primal, and i have never felt so alive. i learned so much about surrender - a lesson that i have carried forth in my daily parenting of elodie. in the end, her cord was wound tightly around her neck which could have potentially been troublesome had i decided to have a home birth and i'm glad that i wasn't faced with that what if.

so now that we have finally moved and have a loving, supportive community here will i have this one at home? to be quite honest, i don't really have a burning desire to switch gears. more and more i feel like where and how we birth is just another way to divide mothers against mothers. i have many friends who have had c-sections and feel guilty that they never labored, many friends who had their babies in in their living rooms. is one superior to the other? not a chance. both stay up nights on end comforting a sick child, wipe away tears, give every bit of their resources and energy to make their little ones feel like the most important thing in the world. 

the point where i get heated is when a woman is bullied into doing something out of fear for her baby's safety (which is honestly most likely to happen in a hospital setting) but i've also personally met a woman whose baby died because the midwife (here in los angeles, a year ago) was too cavalier to admit it was time to get to the hospital. all these stories exist, side by side.

i'm not trying to be controversial by writing this. i only know my own experience which was a truly beautiful one. the end goal is to have a healthy baby and a birthing experience that honors the journey of bringing a new life into this world. there are many, many ways to come by that and the only right choice is the one that feels most authentic to you. it's easy to spiral out of control and make choices based on what so and so is doing. that's the last thing you want to be doing when you are about to go through one of the most intensely personal experiences of your life. 

i will be sharing a list of resources later this week that made all the difference in the world during elodie's birth. stay tuned!

30 comments:

  1. Elizabeth. You do what is best for you, with moving, a gorgeous daughter and husband (!) you have enough on your plate. If having a hospital birth (or home birth) is what feels right then go forth and don't worry :)

    Sweet baby Antonia will be here before you know it! Xx

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  2. Beautiful post Elizabeth, well said. So wonderful to hear of your positive birth experience.
    ~ melania

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  3. It was so, so, so refreshing to read this, Elizabeth. Iris' birth was NOTHING like I'd planned for or even imagined. There were complications and unexpected issues that led to quick decision making. But I'm so grateful that I was able to have a vaginal birth, and that in those moments where Iris came into the world, I was unbelievably present.

    That was the best advice a veteran mom had given me: "Do what makes you most present at the birth of your baby."

    With this second one on the way, I'm with you--can't imagine NOT delivering in a hospital now; but I'm so pleased to being going into that experience with positive expectation. Glad it's the same for you!

    Sarah

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  4. Very nice post. It's a relief to learn of hospitals that are more open to a natural birth experience. I just found out I'm pregnant, but had done plenty of research (it took us about 1 year of trying) and found a birthing center at a hospital here in San Diego with regular labor and delivery just 2 floors down. While the comfort of home sounds ideal, I too feel most assured about this birthing center. Your desires for your experience are exactly what I am looking for too...the ability to walk around, labor in a tub, getting support from a doula, all of which this place offers.
    I'm really looking forward to your future recommendations!

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  5. Thank you for a post that is about the choice of a woman and her family. As a midwife, it's what we want for all women...as a pregnant woman, I'm so glad I have that knowledge. Wishing you love and light.

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  6. Thank you for your post, I'm so interested in remain different perspectives from Mamas. My 3 yr old daughter arrived by elective emergency c section. I went ino a labour and then had a c sect as she was breech. I live in the UK , and I had a really positive experience of having the c sect, obviously I would have loved to have given birth naturally, but it wasn't to be. My only gripe is that I felt really forced ino having a procedure performed in which the doctor manipulates your baby's position to try and move them to a head down position. It can be really dangerous. I felt that my daughter was happy in her position, she wasn't in pain (although her head was pushing my ribs!) so I refused the procedure. I knew my body and felt like I was being forced, I stood my ground and when my daughter was ready to arrive, she did. I completely agree with you, that as Mamas we are all there to nurture an drive our children, and that should be where we have solidarity. I hope you enjoy the rest of third trimester. Xx

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  7. Damn straight! Should be about personal choice. Far too much guilt around for mothers as it is. I planned a home birth but had to be induced and was in hospital 4 days with lots of medial intervention. Not quite what I wanted but a healthy happy baby is the point of it all so you just kind of have to ride with the punches in the end.

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  8. Great post, great advice. Thank you!

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  9. Really positive post - so many mothers get pitted against each other in the 'who did better by having/not having...'. I found it in the battle to breast-feed too. Good to read a supportive post.

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  10. I am a new mama & one of the greatest gifts I've received in this transition to becoming a mother is to trust my intuition. I aimed for an unmedicated birth, with an incredible midwife at a small local hospital. After 36 hours & not dilating past 3 cm, I chose an epidural. It wasn't an easy decision to make and in the end I did beat myself up a little (wasted energy!).. but something inside told me that if I didn't give my body a break I would've ended up with even more intervention. I rested, things progressed, we killed the epi and I got to push my son out and feel every last bit of it. If it had gone in another direction, I would've made peace with that too. I did what I did to make me more present at the birth of my baby... love that Sarah posted that excellent quote. And love that you shared this excellent post. Congratulations on expanding your beautiful family!

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  12. I am really thankful to the author of this post for making this lovely and informative article live here for us. We really appreciate ur effort. Keep up the good work. . . .

    shot for slim

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  13. this is such a hot topic right now and so i've given it a lot of thought, although i'm not expecting any time soon.

    i think i'd come to the exact same decision as you. it's nice to read about your choice.

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  14. such a great post.
    beautiful.
    and so true ...

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  15. this is exactly how i feel about this. thanks for sharing.

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  16. I've never had a baby (I will someday hopefully) but I often find myself feeling uncomfortable when the subject of childbirth comes up because I have friends who have very strong feelings on all sides of the debate. I really appreciate that you said, "more and more i feel like where and how we birth is just another way to divide mothers against mothers." Reading that gave me chills; Engaging in combative discussions only divides us. Thank you so much for writing this. You're the best.

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  17. I had one at home and one at the hospital! I preferred my home birth. But sometimes you do what you feel is the best and having it in the hospital felt like the right thing. It was a terrible experience and the some terrible things happened to the baby but I still think I went with my gut and that is all we can do right?

    BTW, I am such a huge fan of THE PINK KIT. You can see it on amazon. It's the best tools for labor I have ever found. A great education on our bodies. Spread the word. It's amazing.

    xoxo Whitney

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  18. As a Mama-to-be, this post couldn't have come at a better time. You are absolutely right, it is a choice that can and should only be made by each individual mother based upon what feels right and what will make her most comfortable. Thanks so much for posting this!

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  19. wow, this was so elegantly worded and with the warmest of intentions. I agree whole wholeheartedly and birthed both my boys differently. Yes there were those lingering feelings of self criticism. But believe me, with my oldest at 3, I don't spend too much time thinking about it! So glad that someone in your influential (as it were) position spoke about something so near to my heart and put it in words I never could :)

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  20. Thank you so much for sharing! i, too, had an unmedicated birth with little to no intervention at a hospital, and I shared similar fears. I was surprised during my pregnancy all the negative comments I received from other women about wanting to have a drug free birth. I wish that women could just be supportive and be champions for each other.

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  21. As a CNM, I enjoyed your article, but I am exhausted about fetal deaths being mentioned nearly solely as they relate to home births, as was done in your otherwise thoughtful piece. "Cavalier" physicians contribute to many fetal deaths as well. I had a home birth, a birth center birth, and practice in a hospital. Birth can be safe, or unsafe, anywhere.

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    1. dear anon,

      you are so right. i'd almost say it's a given that doctors are as cavalier if not more so (since 99% of births take place in a hospital and the infant mortality rate is unbelievably high in the US.) both midwives and doctors get high on playing god and do things that are not necessarily in the best interest of the women they are meant to serve. sad in any event.

      two good links:
      http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1898316,00.html
      http://www.improvingbirth.org/

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  22. Stumbled across your blog via Cup of Joe. I think you and I delivered at the same hospital, with the same doctor! I trained to become a doula for friends and family who were having babies, so I had a lot of insight about what I wanted for my own birthing experience. I'd have chosen a home birth if my pregnancy hadn't been so medicalized from the beginning (my paralyzed husband and I went through IVF to conceive.) Going the hospital route just seemed to be the next logical step for us. I had to stand my ground as I passed the 40 week mark, and then the 41 week mark as my doctor wasn't comfortable going that far beyond my due date. He kept saying "if you were my sister I'd have you delivered already." But he always left the decision not to induce up to my husband and I, but cautioned us about what could happen by waiting and that we would have to take full responsibility for the outcome since he would have already had us delivered. I went 10 days past my due date and because of an "off" reading on a NST I agreed to go to the hospital for induction. I spoke in length with with my doula about what methods I should try once I got to the hospital and because I'd taken the time to educate myself about labor and delivery I was able to stand my ground when I denied things like and IV or Heploc. I was allowed to do nipple stimulation for 4 hours and when that didn't push me into active labor (though it did make my contractions longer and closer together) I was allowed a few hours to sleep before they started Pitocin. After 4 hours of labor on Pit, without any pain medication, I pulled my baby girl out of me and placed her on my chest. It was incredibly empowering and beautiful and has definitely given me the courage to do a home birth next time around. I'm so grateful for the access we have in the U.S. to birth the way we choose to.

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  23. I totally agree. I had a home birth, water birth, pulled my daughter to my chest with my own two hands. The most perfect home birth a woman who wanted a home birth could have ever asked for. But then I got my ass handed to me on platter with breastfeeding. My daughter had all sorts of health issues that made breastfeeding nearly impossible for us. I finally got her to nurse at 5 months, but still had to pump (which I did for almost 2 years) and I would always find myself thinking, I would trade all of this shit for an emergency caesarean birth (I like to say cesarean birth instead of c-section, because the term c-section doesn't imply that a woman gave birth, when she did!). How your baby comes out does not matter. It is a blink of an eye on the time line of being an mother.

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    1. i hear you! pumping is such a huge commitment! it's so hard to know why some things are easier and some things are harder! we just have to do the best we can. xoxo

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  24. So well written. I had an emergency C-section with my daughter. Because of how I'm built, my doctor didn't even want to consider a natural birth with my second child, and I was OK with that. When they cut me open with my son it turned out it was THE BEST choice I didn't push because the way the scars from the first C-section grew, I would have raptured and that would have been fatal for either baby or me or both of us. I feel a little bit of guilt for not "pushing," and even had a woman tell me I don't know what childbirth is. I look at my children and I don't care what anyone says. They came out healthy, beautiful, and jsut the way their life journey was to begin.

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    1. Thanks for writing Izzy. We are so fortunate to be given the option to get our child out the safest way possible (which should also be researched and sometimes given a second opinion) - so many mothers still die in childbirth because they don't have access to the resources that we have in the west. This should not be the case!!

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  25. Well said. I think sometimes it's not until you've had a child that you realize how much more important the day to day parenting of your child is than the way in which you birthed them (or in many cases - adopted them). Labor is ~24 hours of your life compared to every hour of every day for the rest of your life!

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  26. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I think you're absolutely right that there seem to be more and more ways for mothers to compare themselves to each other and to feel guilty and how we birth our children is just another. After dealing with infertility issues for many years my husband and I opted for IVF. We were very lucky that I was able to become pregnant and I always knew that I wanted to have my baby naturally. IVF and struggling with infertility for so long were each such a trying process that in my mind I judged myself into thinking that unless I pushed my baby out and felt every single second of it I wouldn't be a "real mother". I can't believe that I put myself through that but I did and it was so unhealthy. Like some of the commenters said here already, how our children are birthed is just how their lives begin and being a parent is so much more than that one moment. I was in labor for nearly 18 hours and while I held out as long as I could without an epidural opting for one was the best choice for me and my daughter. I was also very lucky to have a doctor who was extremely supportive of my and my husband's decisions. Finding a doctor, doula, midwife, who listens and supports you and offers thoughtful, sound advice is key. For me, neither getting pregnant nor delivering my baby was how I ever envisioned it but how it actually happened is a dream come true and the most rewarding experience of my life so far. thanks, again. x

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