Not brainwashed

I stumbled upon this article titled “Eve’s Punishment Rebooted: The Ideology of Natural Birth” and was immediately appalled. As I read, the entire article gave me the feeling that myself and women like me are being considered brainwashed products of misogyny. Perhaps that was the case, perhaps not. Only Ms. Egbert would know her true intent here. She would later claim in comments that it was not her intent. Unfortunately, when you go and alienate an entire group of women straight off the bat, it’s a little difficult to be so sure.

As I stated in a couple of my replies to some of the comments – as well as to most anyone who know me or has read my blog for any length of time –  of my five children, three were born in hospitals. My first (a cesarean) and my second (a highly medicalized VBAC) were both very traumatic to me. After the latter, I actually made the statement that having been raped before by someone I trusted, I know what it felt like, and that birth felt exactly the same. I felt bullied through the pregnancy by the OBs in the practice. Scare tactics were used even though there was no evidence that anything was wrong. In both of my first two births, I felt like a child being told what to do. I was treated as essentially nothing, worthless. WIth my VBAC – that I wanted to have naturally (i.e. vaginally, no pain meds, no unnecessary interventions), I was given pitocin – that I had previously made clear I did not want – “just a little” and “just for a little bit”, both of which ended up being total lies. When I finally insisted on having it turned off, I was informed that if I did not allow the nurse to turn it back on, the doctor would section me when she came in. No reason or need. But, again, I was just the little patient, expected to do as I was told. When I finally relented to the epidural, my nurse was ecstatic because I was easier to control. Once it came time to push, the OB actually yelled at me for grunting and breathing noisily as I was attempting to push. Again, I wasn’t being the good little girl, I guess. I truly wanted nothing more than to kick that bitch in the head, but knew that I needed to be that good patient. Naturally, she got me back by stitching me up so tightly that it hurt to use the toilet for months. That was a nice touch.

I will also say that my last two (home water birth and home dry birth) were my largest babies at 10 lb 13 oz and 11 lb 11 oz, respectively. Because I was able to move into positions that felt right at the time, I managed to avoid tearing. At all. Even though I did with my other smaller babies. In fact, after both of their births, I actually had to be told to calm down and take it easy. I was exhilarated and even, yes, empowered. Not because of any pain – which, as one previous poster pointed out, DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUATE TO SUFFERING – but because I did it. I did something that the previously mentioned OB would have sectioned me for. I was able to immediately start the bonding process. No baby was being whisked away. In fact, my midwife (CNM, for those keeping track at home) prefers that only mom or dad, but especially mom, hold baby for the first day or two, just to help increase likelihood of bonding. That’s fine with me because I don’t have to worry about people traipsing through, expecting to hold baby. In fact, when it’s in our home, we get to determine who we do and don’t want traipsing through. 😉

Upon reading the article, I immediately resented the implication that I have been brainwashed. If anything, I had been previously brainwashed to trust in the so-called “experts” to know what was best for me. I resent the implication that I – or others like me – are brainwashed into choosing natural (drug-free, vaginal) birth.

Unfortunately, many of the commenters also referred to us “natural birthers” as a cult. You’ve got to be kidding. If anything, this belief that you’re only safe in an icky, germ-infested hospital where you’re told what to do and only “allowed” to do certain things while being “not allowed” others is the one that is cult-like. After all, if you wouldn’t accept being “allowed” or “not allowed” to do things by a significant other, why is it suddenly okay for our care providers? Why should they be exempt from respecting us and our bodies?

I do wish that Ms. Egbert would have spent some time with us “natural birthers” as well as some midwives before she drew her conclusions. I also wish that she would reach out and take the time to find out why our need/desire/wish for such takes place. In many cases – at least the ones I know personally – we choose the natural method because we feel better taken care of, safer, and we feel like human beings.

Surprises after delivery

After reading After-birth: 10 surprises from those first days after delivery by Meredith Bland who, by the way, is quite witty. I thought about it for a bit and decided I had to comment somewhere. She’s so right in that there are so many of the things that happen afterward that they don’t tell you about before.

Now, here’s the thing, I’ve experienced all the varieties of birth that, to my knowledge a woman can possibly experience. Cesarean, medicated VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), natural hospital VBAC, water HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean), and HBAC.

I’d like to think that my experience is not to be discounted in the grand scheme of things.

Cesareans suck. At least, mine did. It also didn’t help that I wound up catching something nasty in the hospital – to be expected as, after all, hospitals are full of nasty germs and sickness – that took my voice away and made me miserable. Because that’s exactly how you want to feel when they’ve just handed you a baby to care for. In fact, the lovely OB chastised me the next day for not being up and moving. All I wanted to do was tell him to go to hell. But I couldn’t. I had no voice, remember?

I will tell you, however, you do not want to gaze upon your stitches those first several days. They’re not pretty.

Also, that tummy of yours? The one the baby just came out of? Yeah, you do not want to see it right away, either. They forget to tell you that it doesn’t just magically go away. No. You’re now the proud owner of a saggy, baggy belly. Nursing helps it lessen faster, I promise!

The super-augmented hospital VBAC wound up being awful in a multitude of ways. What many medical professionals don’t seem to understand is that a healthy baby is not the be all and end all of things. A healthy mama is incredibly important as well because, let’s face it, we’re the ones performing the majority of care for that healthy baby. Especially if we’re breastfeeding. If we’ve not healthy – physically and mentally – we’re not going to be doing a bang-up job of bonding with or caring for that healthy baby. But we may be doing a great job of having all sorts of negative thoughts or tons and tons of therapy bills and antipsychotics. Capiche?

After my (natural) VBACs, I was up moving around pretty quickly. As in, right after. Really. I’ve never felt so energized in my life.

Bleeding? Oh, yes, there will be blood. I didn’t really notice much difference in the amount between any of my cesarean or hospital births, but I did notice much less blood (lochia) after my home births. And, as the author pointed out, it is a very disconcerting feeling when something slides out of your vagina. *shudder*

Which brings me to pads. Yes, you can grab as many of those sexy mesh panties you can get your hands on before leaving the hospital. Heck, you’re paying for them all anyway, so grab what you can.

My CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) also gave me a bit of an education on things. Two words: Adult diapers. No kidding. They’re a fantastic thing to behold for a postpartum woman. I know, you probably don’t believe me, and I admit that I was very skeptical at first, but I found out quickly just how effective they are.

The “uterine massage” is truly a thing of the devil. And it seems to get worse the more children you have. Bonus, I know! And, remember that feeling of something sliding out of your vagina? Two-fer!! For bonus points, do you know what else helps your uterus contract? Yep, breastfeeding your baby.

As far as breastfeeding goes, I lucked out with my oldest. At least in the beginning. Things were going great. Until I started a full time job. And had not a clue about pumping. And had little success. It wasn’t long before I found myself staring at different types of formula.

With my second, I wound up on the NuvaRing which dried up my supply. Not all women have this result, I guess I was just lucky.

With my third, I had all of the issues with the crazy doctor and the hospital that resulted in my milk drying up.

With my fourth, I was fortunate enough to have a CNM who is also an LC (Lactation Consultant). She was able to diagnose an issue (oversupply) that I didn’t even know I had. Had I not had her, I’m convinced I would have had a similar result as the others. I breastfed him for almost a year and a half.

With my fifth, I had the same midwife as my fourth and she was able to “fix” a bad latch. When I say bad latch, I mean bad. No exaggeration here, I was so close to calling it quits because it hurt so bad, and I was bleeding to boot. Every time I would feed him, I would curl up in a ball and cry. She made a trip out to see us just a few days after he was born – rather than having me come in to see her – and solved the problem nearly immediately. She also gave me some awesome things to wear on my nipples to help them heal quickly. We hit the year mark earlier this month and we’re still going strong.

Lesson learned here? It’s a very good idea to consult with an LC – and not a hospital LC, either as, I’m sorry to say, my experience with them was severely lacking – if you have any concerns. Or maybe even just to have them take a quick peek and see if everything looks good. If you cannot afford one, see if you can find a nursing support group that’s led by an LC. Obviously this would need to be an in-person group but you probably already sensed that’s where I was going. 😉

The author also hit the nail on the head regarding pooping afterward. At least after a cesarean or medicalized birth. There was no issue after any of my natural births. Although, after the first two, I thought sure there would be. I was nearly petrified with fear, only to realize that, hey, there was nothing to fear at all.

Yes, I’m partial to my natural births – especially the two at home. They were the only ones that I had some semblance of control, competency, and empowerment with/from. After all, if I can give birth, I can do anything! Well, maybe not, but it sure feels that way for awhile.

I must reiterate here. It’s far easier to care for your healthy baby when you yourself are mentally sound. A traumatic, unnecessarily-controlled birth does not do that. In essence, it robs people. It robs the baby of a healthy mother as well as the opportunity to bond more readily to her. It robs the mother of the opportunity to bond readily with the baby. It robs the father because he is left feeling uncertain of what she has gone through and what he “should” be feeling – he’s torn, and that should not be. If there are siblings, those siblings get robbed too, and might be more likely to have animosity toward their new baby.

With all that being said, yes, there are some super crazy things going on after a baby is born. Here’s hoping you didn’t find out the hard way.

The birth of Henry

This post has taken some time to write. I started writing it on 1, Feb and I’m only posting it on the 4th.

First, just to get everyone up to speed, I went to a Blessingway that a friend threw for me on the 23rd (January). Shortly before it started, I started feeling not-so-great. Jon and I went to lunch and I mostly just picked at mine. I ended up eating more of his raw celery (which I ordinarily hate) than any of my own meal. We went to the Blessingway and I had a good time, I just didn’t/couldn’t really eat anything there either.

That evening at home, I got sick. I spent the next few days with gastro-intestinal issues (which can be totally normal in early labor) along with contractions. I wound up being wracked with darn near non-stop contractions for the next several days. I. Was. Miserable. I could tell from the contractions that nothing was really changing.

I finally called the midwife office on Friday (28, Jan) to see if they could check baby’s position to see if maybe that was causing the lack of progress. The midwife on call, Holly, phoned back concerned that I was not in labor, but very dehydrated. She wound up coming to our house and giving me an IV which made me feel considerably better. The contractions were few and far between. I was ecstatic. The biggest challenge now would be trying to eat (something I hadn’t done in nearly a week) and drink. I tried hard to push fluids and I tried to eat a little bit, although eating was easier said than done.

Sunday we awoke to the sounds of Elias yelling about wanting to eat. We decided to go to breakfast. Before we left home, I went to the bathroom where I attempted to pee. I had noticed during the night that I had all the symptoms of a urinary tract infection. The morning brought no relief with pain and burning. This time though, when I wiped, I noticed some bloody mucous. I decided to phone the midwife back – I had already phoned asking about what to do for a UTI – and let her know. Holly wasn’t terribly sure. She decided to phone in an antibiotic and see if things improved in 24 hours.

I honestly didn’t want to go anywhere other than right back to bed but I knew that there was no way that would happen. Everyone was starving and, when Jon’s blood sugar gets low, there is simply NO amount of reasoning with him. So, I got in the car and we set off. It wasn’t too long in the car that I became very uncomfortable. Sitting down became an impossible task. I laid the seat back as far as it would go and found some (minimal) comfort. At one point, I told Jon we needed to go back home. He reminded me that we were already pretty much there (about a mile away) and that the kids were absolutely starving. I begrudgingly agreed.

We went into the restaurant and sat down. At least, I tried to sit down. I just couldn’t get comfortable. I finally went to use the toilet. I realized that I was semi-comfortable for the first time. I felt a tiny bit pushy whilst seated on the toilet. I quickly figured out that I couldn’t stay in here forever and need to get out. I went back to the table where I tried, very unsuccessfully, to get comfortable. Finally, the pressure got to be too much and I asked Jon to give me the keys. I went to the car and laid down again, while calling Holly back. I told her that there was definitely something else going on, that I was feeling a lot of pressure between my legs. She decided to come to our house to check me out. I knew that, with her having about a 45 minute drive to our house, Jon and the kids had time to finish up their breakfasts and then we needed to get home. I texted him as such.

The ride home was the longest ride I think I’ve ever taken. Realistically, we were only about 20 minutes away from home but it felt like three hours. And then there were the endless questions from Elias and several from Ceili Fey. I thought it would never end. And then, finally, we were home. I went inside and immediately removed my clothes. Don’t ask me why, I’ve no idea. I next went upstairs and tried to lie down and get comfortable. At one point I think I almost fell asleep but then I felt that pressure again and that brought me back around very quickly. I went to the toilet and noticed blood.

I went downstairs and got straight into the birth tub. It was nice and warm and felt good. I only stayed seated for a minute or two before the pressure became too much again. The odd part was that there were never any contractions, just a great deal of pressure. I hit the button to start the jets and finally found a somewhat comfortable position kneeling in the tub and sort of leaning over the side. I had either zoned out or actually fallen asleep, I’m not certain which. I stayed like that until Holly tapped my arm and startled me back to present. She asked how I was doing and I think my answer was “not well” or something similar. She went to do something and, while she was gone, I felt very pushy again. This time I surrendered to it and started to push. The feeling went away but then came back another time or two before she returned. One of the times, I felt something pop. It momentarily frightened me until I realized that it must have been my water breaking.

At one point, while talking to Holly, I remember sort of jerking bolt upright and pushing. She kept asking me questions like did that seem to help, etc. I told her that it did a little bit, for awhile.

It was right around this point that she decided to check me in the tub – she was originally going to have me get out so she could check things out but opted to have me stay in – and, to the best of her abilities since I couldn’t stand to have her checking for too long, she determined I was actually in labor. I think that shocked her to find that I was in labor with no contractions. It wasn’t too long after that I started to feel that burning and knew that Henry was well on his way. I kept putting my hand down to see what I could feel. At one point, Holly asked me what I felt… I wasn’t sure and whined something to that effect. She told me Penny (CNM) was on her way.

It seemed like no time at all, I realized that I was feeling Henry’s head! The burning was so painful and intense that pushing wasn’t exactly a fun option, any more than not!! Shortly after that, Henry came out. Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. I recall crying out for poor Holly to “get him out of me!” which was exactly what she was trying to do. She kept (kindly) reminding me that I had to help her by pushing. Admittedly, I felt like the biggest wuss afterward.

Relief!!

Finally meeting Henry for the first time
 It seemed as though it took forever but in reality, it all took just a few minutes. Yes, minutes! After a few more moments, it was time to get out and get dried off. I remember being uncertain about actually stepping out of the tub with Henry in my arms but it was much easier than I thought it would be. Holly also let Penny know that she didn’t need to rush. 
                                                     
Enjoying Henry, skin-to-skin
The placenta stayed inside me for about 20 minutes. I just didn’t feel ready to expel it earlier. Partially because I was afraid it would hurt and I had just been through some pretty intense – albeit short – pain. With Noah (my only other natural birth), it did, although I’m not certain why. Perhaps because I tore a bit or perhaps because it was tugged… I’m honestly not sure. I know that my fear most likely contributed to the lengthiness.
After the placenta was expelled, we snuggled skin to skin for awhile. Then Jon’s parents arrived. Only Jon’s mom got to hold Henry since Holly wanted him to stay skin to skin with me as his body temp had dropped when the back door got left open as Jon and Penny’s (the other midwife) husband drained the birthing tub. 
Henry and his Grandma Marilyn
Next it came time to weigh Henry. Holly held him over the scale and asked if any of us wanted to make any guesses. Jon and I both thought he would be nine pounds and some odd ounces. He weighed in at a whopping 10 lbs 13 oz!!  Yowza. No wonder it hurt so bad!
Henry, all 10 lb 13 oz of him
No one expected him to be that big!!!! I would later learn that he holds the current record for the biggest baby caught with the midwifery center. I also found out that this was the first birth Holly attended by herself. Glad it was an easy one for her. And me.

We all reached the conclusion that if Jon and I have any more children, we’ll be having home births without a doubt because we probably won’t have time to get anywhere if we wanted to.

Shortly after that my father and Connie arrived. They stayed with me while Jon, his parents and the kids (sans Henry, of course) ran up the road to grab a quick supper. It was nice to have a few moments of quiet. Even though the kids were upstairs for nap/quiet time during Henry’s birth and shortly thereafter, I was definitely aware of their presence. 

I have no regrets. Home birth was the best choice we could have made. I only wish we had done it sooner. The only thing I would have liked to have had differently was to have Jon a little more attentive as I was in labor. I think he had had some many false alerts that he was expecting this to be yet another one. Heck, even Holly had thought about not packing her birth kits when she headed out but changed her mind at the last moment. It would have been nice to have him rubbing my back or holding me. I think toward the end he was a bit freaked out. I know I was a little because of the speed at which things were happening. 

I did learn that faster is not necessarily better. When I had Noah, I had contractions all day so my body had time to get used to things and work up to birth. This time around there were just no contractions (on the day of Henry’s birth) so my body had no time at all to prepare. The best part? Besides a baby, of course, was that I barely tore at all. Just one tiny place that was so insignificant it didn’t even require stitches. Yay!!

Birth plans

Now as many of you already know, I’ve had two VBACs. One was highly (unneccessarily) medicalized and the other was not. I much preferred my second VBAC (my third child) to the prior VBAC. With the second, I made up a birth plan but found out very quickly that there was no way it was going to be honored. With my second VBAC (third child), the CNMs that I chose for my care providers were welcoming of my birth plan. They went line by line and discussed it with me. They very much agreed, which really put me at ease.

I have learned that birth plans are frequently scoffed at by medical personnel – and some mothers as well – so much so that it leads me to believe that they are ignored more often than not. I also read a blog entry from The Feminist Breeder about birth plans being more than a “wish list”.Very interesting read.

I’m curious how many of you have had birth plans and whether they were honored or not. What is your take on birth plans? Do you think they are frivalous or necessary?

As an aside, I also thought I would share with you why I believe birth plans are so important (for me). When you have had a cesarean, you are at (slight) increased risk for uterine rupture. It’s my understanding that uterine rupture is extremely painful and you will know immediately that something is wrong – unless you have had an epidural because you won’t be able to feel if anything goes wrong. If uterine rupture is caught, it can be taken care of immediately. Unless, as previously mentioned, you don’t know it happened. At this point, a birth plan comes in because I stress that I don’t want any medical intervention unless medically necessary – there is an actual risk to baby or myself – because as most of us know, once one intervention happens, say pitocin to “rev up” contractions, it is much more likely for another, say an epidural because you can’t stand the pain of the contractions caused by the pitocin. So, for me, the safety of baby and mom are at risk if I do anything to cause an epidural to occur. That’s why I like my birth plan.

A tale of two births

All this talk about babies – okay, okay, I’ve been the one doing the talking – has got me thinking. Noah’s birth was so much more peaceful and calm than Elias’.

Prenatal care
With Elias:

  • I rotated through the three doctors in the practice
  • Appointments were quick, I spent more time with the nurse than the OB
  • I was told that I was in the minority for wanting to have a VBAC
  • I never felt as though I was taken seriously
  • I did not feel cared about, as though I was just a number
  • I felt like the doctors thought they knew my body better than I did
  • I really did not like the exams
  • The OBs freaked out when I went past the “due date”

With Noah:

  • Appointments were longer and spent with the midwife
  • I felt listened to and believed
  • I felt cared about
  • The vaginal exams were few and far between
  • It was made clear to me that I was not in the minority for wanting a VBAC, my choice was actually encouraged
  • No one freaked out when I went past the “due date,” we discussed things and they didn’t start to worry unless we approached 42 weeks

Labor
With Elias:

  • Went to hospital waaay too early – kind of got bullied into that
  • Labor was controlled and augmented with Pitocin that was not allowed to be turned off due to threat from the doctor that she would section me if it wasn’t turned back on

With Noah:

  • Went about my day, ate, drank, lived as normal
  • I waited to go to hospital until I was feeling the need to push
  • Mostly calm environment – once we got in the room

Birth
With Elias:

  • I was on my back with my legs being held up by my husband and a nurse
  • I felt very humiliated and embarrassed
  • The doctor told me to stop making noises when I was grunting as I tried to push
  • After I tore, Jon was shooed away from me while I was being sutured
  • The doctor sutured me up so tight that I had pain and tightness for months afterward
  • Elias was put on my chest momentarily before being whisked away

With Noah:

  • I laid on my side to push him out with Jon standing beside me
  • Noah was immediately put to my chest to feed where he stayed for some time
  • I was asked if it was okay to take him and weigh him, etc.

I attribute the difference between the two births to a number of things: The second time around I went to Nurse Midwives of Indianapolis where the Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) have views on birth that closely match my own, i.e. if it ain’t broke….

Also, we went to Methodist where the nurses are much more accustomed to seeing natural birth, unlike when we were at Clarian North. Clarian North would be later described to me as “perfect” for those moms who don’t want to mess their makeup.

I also read a lot. I re-read a lot of the books that I had read – or skimmed – before. I especially enjoyed reading Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner. I do firmly believe that both books played a large part in my having the natural birth I wanted.

If I do it again, I would like to consider a home birth. I definitely would want a water birth, regardless of where it would take place. But, of course, that all depends on whether or not we have another one. Now, I realize that realistically we don’t have space in our house for another person. I do get that. I have hopes – we both do – that we will be able to find some land within a few years and literally make a home for ourselves.