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.

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

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

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.

Noah’s grand entrance

Contractions began at about 3 am Monday morning. They continued off and on all day. We went to the scheduled appointment at the birth center where they did an NST. Once everything was confirmed to be okay with baby, she wanted to check to see how far dilated I was. I seemed to have surprised her when she discovered I was right about 4.5 – I don’t know if I was too calm or what. Next, I was told to go home, stay active, hydrated, and be certain to eat.

We began making arrangements to get the kids taken care of. My mother took our daughter with her. We then met Jon’s parents for supper and passed off the little guy to them. Contractions sped up to about 8-10 minutes apart during supper. We then proceeded to go home and try to get ready.

Contractions held pretty steady around ten minutes apart, after a bit of fluctuating to about 12-14 first. I started feeling a little chilled so I decided to jump in the tub. I stayed in for a while until I got bored. It was nice and very comfortable while it lasted, however. I got out and lounged on our bed with a book for awhile.

We watched Bones and Two and a Half Men that we had DVR’ed previously. I honestly don’t recall if this was before I got in the tub the first or the second time.

It wasn’t too long before things began to get harder to deal with. I felt like I just really had to poop. I sat on the toilet for awhile, frustrated because I couldn’t do anything. I kept peeing though. Every time I thought I was done peeing, I felt more coming out, which rather confused me as I sat there. Finally, I decided to get back into the tub. It didn’t help. I felt even more like I needed to poop. It was odd because I wanted to try to poop right there in the tub, which completely baffled me at the time!

Out of morbid curiousity, I inserted a finger inside to feel if anything was going on. I felt something very hard, which puzzled me. I could not figure out what on earth would be so hard that I could feel.

The heat of the water started making me feel sick, which helped even less. Jon started putting some cold water in to try to cool it off. It helped, but not much. The heat made me feel like I was going to vomit. Finally he got the water cooled down, all the while trying to get me to get out. At one point, I was half hanging out of the tub in much pain. He finally convinced me and helped me climb out.

I laid naked on the bed, miserable. He had already turned the ceiling fan on high. I asked him to open a window. I kept on with that constipated feeling as I was racked with pain. Finally, Jon phoned Barb (the CNM) who (I believe) suggested we get to the hospital. Andrea (another CNM) had already let her know we would almost definitely be phoning that same night.

He finally coerced me off of the bed, although I still stood leaning over the bed sort of swaying back and forth. I tried to reach down to get my pants on, but was unable to. He had to help me get my pants on. Bending over was just not possible at this point. Sitting was even more unimaginable, although there was not much other way to get to the hospital.

Once we got to the car, I laid the seat back as far as it would go. The Jimmy Buffet CD I had been listening to earlier was still playing. I was able to focus on that fairly well. You wouldn’t think Buffet would be terribly conducive to laboring but, oddly enough, it did help.

I won’t lie. The ride was fairly miserable. The pain became almost constant – no real reprieve at all. Finally, we got to the hospital. Jon told me he could either drop me off at the front or I could stay with him and walk from the garage. I opted for the latter. I was not about to be by myself at this point!!

We parked, Jon grabbed pretty much everything leaving me to grab my pillow and we began walking. And walking. Every once in awhile I had to stop, grab the wall, and hold on, all the while feeling that strange needing-to-poop feeling. After the pain would somewhat subside, I would then be able to continue walking. Finally we get into the lobby where Jon said something about a wheelchair. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to sit down, but I also wasn’t sure that I wanted to keep walking. I decided to sit down.

We went up to the third floor only to find that we were at the wrong doors – after 9 pm they get locked. We went to the other doors only to find out that we had to go back downstairs to another set of elevators entirely to come back up to the third floor.

Once we finally got in, the nurses knew immediately who we were. We went into the room that was waiting for us. I don’t recall a lot of what went on while I continued feeling miserable. At one point, the nurse asked me to use the toilet. I sat there, peed, and suddenly realized that I needed to poop so badly. I started bearing down, trying unsuccessfully. At this point, I knew something felt off. I reached down and touched my vulva to feel what was going on and felt something hard. It startled me and I snatched my hand back. It took me a moment to get it together and I felt again, only to feel nothing abnormal.

I had been bearing down off and on. At one point, the nurse asked me if I felt like pushing. I said I didn’t know. It was about this time that she came in and insisted I get off of the toilet. I would later learn that my grunting had alerted the nurse, who was calling frantically trying to get anyone to respond and come to help.

The nurse walked me to the bed. It wasn’t terribly easy since I was walking bowlegged at that point. She had me lie down on the bed in order to wrap the straps for the baby moniters around me. I really wanted to be doing anything but lying down. She kept trying to get me to lie flat and I kept telling her no. I wanted to be upright but she wouldn’t let me. She kept physically trying to hold me down, telling me I couldn’t without the midwife or an OB there. I was so angry!! Finally I rolled over on my side and refused to lie on my back.

I kept bearing down – by this time I had figured out what was going on with the feeling to poop that I had been having – and I felt this odd burning sensation. I remember hearing “rimming” used twice by the nurse. It was then that I decided I wanted the baby out and I wanted him out right then!! At one point, Jon told me the baby was out. I yelled back, “No, he’s not because I can still feel him!!!!” It was about then that I felt almost a woosh and the burning was gone.

Finally, Barb rushed in. Jon would later tell me that she ran into the room, donned some gloves and got to me just in time to catch the baby.

Noah was born at 12:06 am on 21, April 2009. He was 8 lb 15 oz and 21 inches long. He’s so tiny!!!!!!

Also, I have to say that stitches with no anesthetic hurt like hell. The midwife injected me with something but it may as well have been saline because I’ll be damned if I noticed any difference. Finally, just wanting to be done, I told her to just hurry up and finish.