Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My thoughts on natural childbirth

It's been 19 days since the birth of my son... since the day I went through one of the most intensely emotional events in the human experience. And after having thought about it for that length of time - over and over again - I've come to a few conclusions. Because I know there are questions looming out there I will attempt to explain how I feel about my choice for natural childbirth as opposed to a medicated birth like I went through with Elijah.

Now I know there are those whose point of view is this: If modern medicine has made a way for childbirth not to hurt, why chose the painful way? It's like having your wisdom teeth pulled and declining the Novocaine.

And I was of that school of thought until after I delivered Elijah. While his birth experience was wonderful, pain-free (after the epidural kicked in), and one of the best days of my life, I most certainly would have changed a few things looking back. And one of the biggest regrets I had was that I got the epidural with so little progress left to be made. (I was 7 cm when I got it.) At the time I didn't know how quickly I was progressing or that labor and delivery would go so fast.

Furthermore, the fact that I was induced with him changed the dynamic too. Having a drug pushed into your body to make labor progress, causes the pain to reach higher levels more quickly than if labor had come on naturally. My lack of education on the subjects and willingness to be persuaded by medical staff led to my decisions. I wish I would have taken the time to learn more before I had him. Had I known how induction effects babies and what the side effects of epidurals are I would have avoided both more adamantly. I still have back pain from scar tissue caused by the epidural to this day.

So when preparing for Ezekiel's birth, I knew I had some big decisions to make. I knew how things went with Elijah. And while the temporary pain relief was convenient, I had to weigh the long-term consequences to decide if I was willing to pay that price again. In the end, the more I learned the more I knew that an unmedicated natural birth was the right choice for me.

I know some people still think I'm crazy for deciding to do it this way. But that's the great thing about it, in the end I'm the only person who needs to be okay with it.

I guess the biggest questions I've gotten are:
Do I have any regrets?
Would I recommend natural childbirth to other women?
Was having a doula helpful?
Would I do it again if I have the chance?

And the answers are: No, Yes!, Yes!, and Yes!

Sure it was the most painful experience of my life. Sure I thought at the time that my body was going to rip in half. Sure I whaled like a banshee. But the blessing for me was the speed of my labor and delivery. I know I'm not typical when it comes to this. I mean, by my calculations, 4 hours of active labor (1 of which took me from 4 to 10 cm) and less than 15 minutes of pushing is pretty quick. Right? If I were to have endured a 10 hour transition or 3 hours of pushing like some women I know it's quite possible I would have welcomed pain relief with opens arms. Frankly, in my situation I didn't even have time to request or get an epidural. So it's a good thing I had decided before hand that I wasn't getting one.

Nevertheless, I'm happy with my decision. And yes, I would make the same choices again if given the chance. Even if those who witnessed Ezekiel's birth think I'm crazy. I think if I had seen things from their perspective I would think I'm crazy too. One of the very first things out of my mouth once I was cleaned up and holding him afterward was "I am NEVER doing that again." And maybe I won't. But I think that if the Lord brings another baby into our family I will do it the same way. Only next time I think I'll head to the hospital before the contractions come 2 minutes apart. You know, just for good measure. ;)

Some of the main reasons I'd recommend natural childbirth to other women is:

1) I fully believe it's better for babies not to medicate them during the birth process. (of course it's only common sense that any drug going into mom's body would also enter baby's.)

2) The recovery this time for me was so much easier. I was able to move around right afterwards. I was able to do lots of things more easily for that matter - like use the bathroom.

3) I didn't hurt as much for as long.

4) I didn't need as many stitches or have as much swelling- probably because I could feel when I was pushing and didn't push too hard. My body did most of the work itself.

5) I didn't bleed as much immediately afterward. I have no medical explanation for this but I'm sure there is one.

6) As strange as it sounds, I actually got to feel and fully experience the birth this time. No numbing it or dulling my senses with drugs. I was 100% present mentally. (not so with meds commonly used in epidurals. ie: epinephrine, fentanyl, morphine, or clonidine)

7) Consequently the baby was more alert and nursed more readily.

8) Emotional benefits - sense of accomplishment

9) Our bodies are made for this. It's not more than any woman can handle as long as she has the right preparation and support system.

And about the doula... yes I would totally recommend using one if you have the opportunity. She was wonderful to have present. And if not a doula, then a midwife or nurse-midwife. There is just something comforting and encouraging about having another woman there to coach and reassure you who isn't a family member. My thought was that, though having my husband by my side is priceless, and while I need his reassurance, it's just not the same because he will never be able to fully empathize with me in that moment. Plus her only role is to be there for me and coach me through, whereas my husband's attention was somewhat more divided. So if you can, get a doula!

So there are my thoughts for what they're worth.

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