By Jennifer Lynn
Amanda and I were pregnant with our first children at the same time, and often looked to each other to see how the discovery of all things parenthood and mothering was coming along while we waited for our sons. She is a dear friend who saw me through my second pregnancy and supported me while trying to have a different experience for myself and my child than I did the first time around. I can’t really write about my second time until I share my first, so there are two parts to my story. I want to say that I have so much respect for all moms, and am only sharing my own personal experience with my goals that I both did and did not meet. I share my experiences with other moms (who ask, I never volunteer) to hopefully empower them to look in to all of their options to make sure that their provider is working with them in their best interests. The culture of intervening with birth that we have now is very different than the natural process that our bodies are intended to go through, so it is not without much research that I strived to have a birth that was best for both my child and for me.
When I became pregnant with my first son, I went to a doctor that my insurance covered and didn’t question anything that they suggested. I figured that our country has great birth practices and I was excited to deliver at UCLA or Cedars-Sanai where we lived in Los Angeles. Two of the best hospitals in our state were my options, and I was so excited. For the first few weeks of pregnancy, the doctor had me come in regularly for blood tests. They were each basically positive for the right type of hormones but she “couldn’t confirm” that I was carrying a child until about six or seven weeks in when she found the heartbeat. Since I knew that the appointment was to see the heart beat, I brought my husband and sister in law. We crammed into a tiny room, and when the doctor came in, she grimaced at the amount of people I had brought with me (yes, all two of them). Needless to say, my experience wasn’t exciting to anyone but my family and myself. Through my appointments with her, my pregnancy was not met with excitement. I had two “opportunities” to “take care of” my pregnancy if I wanted to, in regards to the genetic tests, in case my baby was less than favorable. I had no desire to be with this doctor any longer. We didn’t know anything about pregnancy or birth, other than knowing that we would probably take a class at some point. This is where we started on our journey.
At five months into my pregnancy, my husband and I moved to a smaller city an hour outside of Los Angeles. We found the “best doctor in town” and I started making my weekly appointments, where I would often wait 1-2 hours to be seen and was met with questions about why I had gained so much weight (“It must have been all of that Thanksgiving food”- for the record, I don’t love Thanksgiving food, and also, what does it matter? They were jerks). It didn’t matter that I had actually lost 20 pounds. When I was sent in for a gestational diabetes test, the doctors did not call me to tell me that my results failed and I needed to do the three hour test. I went through Christmas feeling awful, with little energy, and just blamed the pregnancy. Sometime in mid January, my husband and I watched a documentary called “The Business of Being Born.” As someone who really grasps concepts that have been around for ages, the movie hit me in the gut. I had no idea that a lot of birth care, let alone maternity care, was actually responsible for so many issues with women when it came to their deliveries. I learned that routine episiotomies, something that my doctor was known for, were not really ethical or appropriate when it came to birth, either. I never want back to his office after that.
My husband and I found a birth center nearby and was able to switch to it after 32 weeks of pregnancy. We learned of my gestational diabetes and were able to get it under control, and we took a Hypnobirthing class where we learned how to cope with the pain and stress of childbirth. I learned even more through those sessions than I had watching the Business of Being Born and felt empowered in my pregnancy and my birth to come.
On my actual due date, my water started leaking. I thought it had broken so I called my midwife and she came to my house to perform a cervical check. When my labor did not seem to be progressing quickly, she physically broke my water. Between that and the many cervical checks I ended up having over two days, my perfectly positioned baby turned around and I ended up enduring a 52 hour labor with about 35 hours of back labor. In all of the research I had done, I did not realize that cervical checks weren’t necessary and that breaking a woman’s water too early (which is routinely done in hospitals) would change the baby’s position and raise my risk for infection or a cesarean, or both. I trusted my midwife and went along with her recommendations.
On the third day of excruciating back labor, which without Hypnobirthing-type techniques I would have given in to more intervention much, much sooner, I transferred to the local hospital for an epidural. . I was able to finally rest, and within a few hours, dilated enough to deliver my 8 pound 5 ounce baby boy without further intervention. He was incredible. I was so relieved to be holding him!
As I would tell my birth story to friends, I spoke of my midwife as a savior of sorts because she prevented a cesarean birth when I thought I had failed at my natural birth. I was heartbroken for myself, relieved for it to be over, and had so much respect for the woman who had “saved me” when her supervising doctor was yelling at her to bring me to the OR. “Just a few hours, let her try” she said, and I am very thankful for that. The more research I did in the following year lead me to realize that I should have opted out of the interventions, but at the time, I just went with everything my midwife wanted. Had she left me alone to labor, and not have broken my water at only two centimeters dilated, things may have gone much differently. He wouldn’t have turned and given me back labor, and I probably could have had the uninterrupted birth I was hoping for. I take responsibility for that, though, and promised myself that I would at least try to go about things differently the next time if we were blessed with another baby.
(Disclaimer: I believe in two things- that parents should have a trust-evidence based relationship with their care provider, and that parents should look into evidence based practices to discuss with their care provider. I did not realize that even my midwife had a few outdated practices that made my birth harder than it probably should have been. I did allow my second midwife to help me break part of my water sack when my second guy was stuck, as I was getting really discouraged. The difference is that I was already fully dilated and birthing. One practice was to rush things, the other was a tool that we chose together, respectfully).
If you want to see how it went with baby #2 click here.
Jen is a work-from-home-mom who currently resides in the Nation’s Capital, though she calls Los Angeles home. Even though her two boys keep her busy, she tries to find time to cook, write, and visit unique restaurants. You can find her natural deodorants and baby products at Two for Joy www.etsy.com/shop/twoforjoynaturalcare