Today I’m delighted to have the always effervescent and entertaining Ana Hahn of Time Flies When You’re Having Babies fame occupying this space while I continue to “recover” (HAHAHAHA) with my four little darlings. Who are being preeeeetty good today so I can’t complain, but I also can’t type “recovery” without employing sarcasm right now.
Ana is the lovely wife of Mike and mom to 4 little people herself (actually, our numbers are almost perfectly aligned for arranged marriages, so I’ll just put that out there…) and hails from the land of the Irish and the eternal winters. Actually she hails further back from the Ohio River Valley where we did some college time together at good old FUS, though I missed my golden opportunity to personally befriend her then because I was too old and too grad student-y. C’est la vie. At least we have the internet to bind us together now.
When I was pregnant with my first I was unsure how to go about preparing for the labor and delivery part of birth. As one of 6 girls in a family of 8 children and the 4th to marry and have kids, I had a lot of other experiences to look at and learn from, and those other experiences served to both scare the heck out of me and help me to form my own opinions with regards to my own pending birth.
I say that they scared me because by the time I married my husband, I had already heard horror stories from both ends of the spectrum of birthing- from the heavily medicated birth and c-sections to the all natural, totally non-medicated birth experience. My sisters who had gotten epidurals had bad reactions to them which caused them to throw up during birth, which sounded awful, but then my sister who did all of her births naturally talked about the level of pain in childbirth in such a way that I was picturing war veterans getting their limbs blown off and it still wasn’t really rivaling her descriptions of the pain she felt.
So how would I do it? Both ways were coming up short in terms of giving me much peace. I ended up signing myself and my husband up for a Bradley birthing class and reading the book “Husband Coached Child Birth” and came out on the “all natural non-medicated” side of things.
I birthed my first born baby girl successfully without any medication and in a large birthing tub, it was pretty much as natural as it could get, except for the fact that it was in a hospital. I had a midwife who advocated for me to have no IV and to be left alone and not asked about receiving an epidural or any other medication. She stayed by my side for the entire 2 hours of pushing and helped in a huge way in order for things to go as smoothly as possible. The pain truly did exceed any of what I could have dreamed up and my screaming got so loud that nurses were coming in from down the hall and asking me to quiet down. Goodbye Dignity!
I felt pretty amazing after the natural birth, something akin to Xena the Warrior Princess, but while the recovery was a cinch, I definitely came out a little traumatized by the whole thing. Yes, I was very proud of myself for doing it non-medicated, but I could not imagine ever doing that again. However, I had been so thoroughly schooled in the all natural Bradley birthing method (and the evil that is medication in a birth setting) that this was pretty much the way I was resigned to doing it for the rest of our births for subsequent children, terrified or not.
But then 18 months later our second baby had different plans for us. Daughter number 2 was as breech as breech could be and after weeks of trying every natural “way to flip a breech baby” and even after attempting an external cephalic version (when they try to flip the baby from the outside of your belly) it became clear that a c-section was inevitable.
Next to myself or my baby dying in child birth, the idea of a c-section was the most terrifying thing I could have thought of. I cried rivers of highly emotional, overly hormonal pregnant tears but eventually I had to accept it- it was the only way to ensure that this baby would come into the world as safely as possible. The doctors advising me were looking out for my baby’s health and my health first and foremost and this was the safest way to go about birthing this baby, even though it was not what I had in mind and certainly not what my “all-natural-or-nothing” mindset had anticipated. We went forward with the c-section and it all went off without a hitch. I had no abnormal side effects from the spinal block and other than the longer recovery from the surgery, it was fine and I had another healthy baby girl.
Cue pregnancy number 3 and I was finally completely indifferent to the way I would birth my next baby. All I really knew is that I preferred to birth this one naturally (meaning, no c-section) so as to not have to recover from another major abdominal surgery while caring for 3 kids 3 and under.
Whether the birth was medicated or natural did not matter one bit as long as the baby came out healthy and had a healthy, happy mama to care for them. I had so many drugs coursing through my veins for that second birth that all of my judgmental tendencies instilled in me in the Bradley class were out the window. I was able to be with a doctor who was very supportive of Vaginal Birth After Cesarian (VBAC) and very much fine with me having an epidural if I decided I wanted one. Whenever my mind went back to the first all natural birthing experience, my anxiety levels went through the roof, so I was veering more and more towards the epidural route.
Maybe it was the fact that I was chasing toddlers around until the end of the pregnancy, or maybe it was the 2 weeks of intense early labor that I went through with baby #3, but by the time my water broke I could not fathom pushing the baby out with no medication. She was very much “head-down” and we went forward with the vaginal delivery, but this time with an epidural, and everything went swimmingly. I think I pushed 3 whole times before little Lucy made her grand entrance and I felt nothing but some “pressure” through the whole thing. And the best part? Yet another healthy baby girl!
At the outset of preparing for labor and delivery, I never would have imagined that I would get to experience so many different ways of birthing babies, I figured that I would chose a way and that would be it. But the health and well being of the baby became priority number one in my newly maternal heart and I learned that there is no one-way to give birth, as long as you are focused on what is best for baby and mom, you’re doing just fine.
*I have since been blessed with a small male who made it safely into the world through another epidural birth, if God decides to bless us even more, who knows what I’ll chose!