Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fearless: Why homebirthing works for me!

One of my bloggy friends recently asked, "Does child birth still scare you? I think part of my hesitation for excitement is my knowledge of what's coming, lol."

I decided it would be best to write a full entry about it, rather than load her blog with long novelesque comments.  So, here goes.

{35 weeks pregnant with Molly Jo, January 2012}

Childbirth is no longer frightening to me, but it used to be. When I was pregnant with Merikalyn, I didn't really think about it. I grew up around birth since my mother was a childbirth educator. I had sat through many of her classes, read a lot of the material, heard a lot of labor and birth discussions, seen videos, etc. I was a wealth of information before I was ever "with child".  My mother never presented natural birth in a scary way.  She was (is) a big supporter of natural childbirth, and so I never really considered anything other than a natural birth. I didn't realize (natural) birth was something to be "afraid of", but I was aware of the dangers involved in some interventions, and I knew I didn't want a medicated birth (or a c-section).  Merikalyn arrived three weeks early, before it really hit me that I was actually going to go through labor which would likely be painful. I really thought she'd be born closer to her due date, so I hadn't begun to worry yet. (Ha!)
Merika's labor and birth was very unpleasant. I labored on my back for hours and hours. Since I wasn't able to eat anything really nourishing (because popcicles do not give the body the energy needed to labor!), I became exhausted. She got stuck in my pelvis, so I was given a saddle block (a shot which numbs the area that would rest on a saddle if you were sitting on one) before she was pulled with forceps from my body.

I learned to fear birth. I learned that birth was long, painful, and exhausting. I wanted more children, but man.. that labor thing. Ugh.

When I got pregnant with Nolyn, I knew I wanted to do things differently. I knew much of the reason for my previous "bad birthing experience" with Merikalyn was due to me not being well informed, so I decided to do more research and dig into things.  First of all I realized that it was not good for me to be laboring flat on my back.  I learned I should try to be on my feet or at least in a sitting position, and if I needed to rest, I should rest on my side, not my back.  I asked for a birthing ball. I wrote a birth plan. I was determined to have a better experience.  And, as far as natural hospital births go, it was a fairly good experience. My water broke at 11:30pm one evening and Nolyn was born at 6:30am the next morning.

I learned a lot from Nolyn's birth.  First of all, after my water broke, I hung around the house. My water had also broken with Merika, and we had rushed off to the hospital even though I wasn't really contracting a lot. So, with Nolyn, we decided to hang out until the contractions became more intense. When they did, we headed to the hospital.  The contractions were on top of one another and it was hard to ride those laboring waves while we were on our way to the hospital.  However, once we got to the hospital and were admitted, the contractions stopped.
Ugh.  And it took forever for them to kick back in!  

I later realized that I do not progress well around a lot of people, especially strangers or even people I know but don't feel comfortable with (like my MIL).  I do not like people watching me labor. I do not care to have nurses and doctors filtering in and out of my room. And, I disliked how shift changes fell during my labors, which often meant that the nurse I finally felt comfortable with would be leaving.  

At one point (during Nolyn's birth), there were five or six nurses standing in the back of my room "just watching".  I was later told that they were amazed that someone as young as me (I was 20 at the time) was having a natural birth, and were told they should watch what a natural birth looks like. Apparently, several of them were amazed by the support system I had in my parents.  So, I had extra people in my room, and felt like I was some sort of science experiment.  Totally uncomfortable!
So, really, birth is scary to me, but only when it's in the context of a hospital birth.  Home birth is not scary to me at all.  I actually look forward to my home births. Hospital births are frightening, and when I thought I might have to have one with Evangeline (because of her heart issue, which was healed before she was born), it really freaked me out. I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I can't even explain how much anxiety came from that!

While I am grateful that we have hospitals for true emergencies, I do not feel that most births qualify as emergencies. I believe that my body was created to perform this task, so birthing is not something I view as dangerous.

While a home birth may be scary to many, it is not scary to me.  In fact, for me, it's what takes the fear out of childbirth. Knowing that I am going to give birth in the privacy and coziness of my home and around the people I love and have chosen to be there gives me great comfort. Being able to choose where I give birth makes me feel like I have control. I don't have to give birth flat on my back, legs spread, feet up in the air. I don't have to be completely exposed. I can give birth in the water. I can give birth on my bed. I can give birth while leaning over my birthing ball. I can snack on whatever I want. I don't have to be confined to a sterile-feeling room. My home is where I feel safe. It's where I feel loved. I feel a warmth within these walls. It's comfortable. It's home. For me, there is no better place to have a baby. 

Laboring at home means I don't have to worry about when it's time to go to the hospital. I can choose to take my mind of the contractions by folding clothes or doing a last minute tidy.  I can hang out with the kids and watch movies with them, read books, play board games. Laboring in a hospital made time stretch on forever.  Laboring at home? Well, time seemed to fly.

Kissing Keagan, just minutes oldLabor and childbirth is no longer frightening because I have witnessed the simplicity it was meant to be.  Keagan's birth was just so incredible. It was so uneventful, really. I began feeling regular contractions on a Tuesday.  The next day, the contractions became a bit more intense, and by that evening, they were rolling one on top of the other. But, because I was in the comfort of my own home, hanging out in my tub, relaxing in my own environment... it was actually, dare I say, enjoyable.
Evangeline's birth wasn't picture perfect, but it wasn't something I look back on with fear.  There was definitely pain involved (since she was born with her hand up by her face, so her head didn't just "pop out" like it should have), but it was still far more comfortable and beautiful and relaxing than any of my hospital births. {Picture, Keagan, freshly birthed, Sept 12, 2007}

I wish everyone could experience a birth like Keagan's. It was amazing, life changing. 
Now, instead of fearing contractions, I welcome them. Every contraction makes me smile, even these preparatory contractions [Braxton Hicks].  I know that they are preparing my body, preparing my uterus, preparing my baby for that moment, for the big event. That excites me!

In an old blog post, I wrote, "And, of course, there comes the labor and the birth in which we must put our trust in God. When we were planning and praying about Keagan's unassisted birth, God often reassured me. "You are fearfully and wonderfully made," He'd whisper. "I made your body. I created you, my daughter, to be able to give birth- do not be afraid!" To date, Keagan's birth has been one of the most amazing, spiritual events in my life, and most definitely in my marriage. God used the pregnancy and birth to bring us so much closer together as husband and wife and as family as well."

Birth is incredibly spiritual to me. Children are the only eternal thing we will ever produce in our lives, so it's no wonder it's so spiritual, deep, and emotional. We are bringing another soul into this world! It is now something I look forward to. Something I anticipate and am eager for.
The boys checking out their brand new baby Evangeline!

{Evangeline, freshly homebirthed, getting checked out by her siblings.}
{Sept. 7, 2010}

  I recommend books like Childbirth Without Fear [Grantly Dick-Read] and any materials you can get your hands on that are written by Michel Odent (he has written some books, but also has free articles spread throughout the web).  Ina May Gaskin's books are wonderful as well, although she makes it sound like homebirths are just for hippies. *Smile*

I feel like I should probably put a disclaimer in here- something about this being my personal views based on my personal experiences because, too often, people take discussions and posts about natural births and home births as an attack on their hospital, medicated, interventioned births. I've had hospital births. I didn't feel safe there. It didn't feel comfortable to me. A hospital birth is NOT for me. Hospital births cause me to be fearful, not relaxed. Homebirthing makes me feel at peace, relaxed, fearless. It is what it is.  I am not saying you are wrong for the birth you chose if it was different from mine (or that your birth was any less amazing if it was in a hospital).


. said...

I've always thought that my less-than-stellar birth experience with Kylie was because I was completely uninformed. God willing, if we have another I hope things would be so much different.

. said...

I don't know what happened to my blogger profile, but this is Kristin. weird....