Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Moment I Knew

I remember laboring in a hospital bed, feeling like I was about to die, when the anesthesiologist finally showed up with the pain medication. I don't remember what I said, probably something really short like, "Not happening!" but I do remember the general gist of what I was thinking: "Get that idiot out of here, I'm about to have a baby!" And then I had a baby. I was totally unprepared for my fast, no-pain-meds labor. It was really a traumatic experience, and amongst all my mixed up post-partum feelings I felt betrayed by the friends and relatives I had talked to who had given birth naturally. I felt like they tricked me. Did they just leave out the part where they wanted to die? Maybe I was just a weenie with no pain tolerance...maybe my pain was totally different from theirs since I had all my labor contractions squished into a couple hours...maybe the pain was my own fault since I hadn't prepared at all, and we all know that fear = pain.

Don't ask me why I was drawn to a natural birth again after all that. I'm not a masochist, I don't have anything to prove, and I'm not superwoman. (All my common misconceptions about natural birthers.) In any case, the moment I knew I absolutely had to have a home water birth was when I was talking to this gal my parents know about her recent water birth. (Mentioned her in previous post.) She had an epidural with her first, then went natural on purpose with her second. "I wasn't prepared for how painful it was," she said. "I felt like I wanted to die." I listened in awe. Finally, someone I identified with! For her third she had an epidural again. I have asked myself on various occasions why I shouldn't just go get induced and have an epidural since it went so well the first time, so I identified with this too. Then with her fourth, she decided that she really wanted to go natural again, so she did and kept doing so until baby number seven, when her husband got on board with the home water birth thing.

"It was amazing. After I got in the tub I was just having these really short contractions so I asked my midwife if my labor was slowing down. She said no, that the water was dulling them so I only felt the most intense part of them." "Did you ever feel like you wanted to die?" I asked eagerly. "No," she responded. "It was way better than my other natural births. I never felt that level of pain where I wanted to die, except right there at the end for a couple pushs I remembered what the prevous labors had felt like."

Can I get a hallelujah!?! The heavens parted. If I could only bring that natural pain level down one notch, then I absolutely knew that home water birth was my number one option. I'm banking on the water, people. If nothing I try with this next birth helps alleviate the "I want to die feeling" of natural birth, then it's back to the epidural for me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Midwhiffery: The Midwife Ramblings

First off, did you know that midwifery is pronounced "mid-WHIFF-ery"? After my midwife said it that way I started trying to remember if I had said "midwifery" in my conversations with her, because I had probably said it wrong. We English majors don't like to say words wrong.

And now to the ramblings:

I started my search for a midwife with Melissa, the midwife my sister-in-law used for her home birth. We walked in and I felt like her waiting room was a secret tool to psychoanalyze us...are we the sort of couple that chooses the birthing ball, the beanbag, the shiny leather sofa, or stools? Austin and I sat upright in the sofa, (Yes, analyze that--we are not super natural people.) I was feeling really nervous, and yet a little powerful--I didn't know you could interview your healthcare provider...I always thought you just looked online and then went in for an appointment and hoped for the best.

With this appointment, Austin thought Melissa and her assistant were nice but trying to hold back their fanaticism, (although he later admitted they might have just been passionate about what they do) he asked some questions about his main concern, insurance, then he was super bored. The whole interview was an interesting experience to me, not only because I was the one actually having the baby, but because normally if I want out of tests or question why things are done a certain way, I feel like I'm an inconvenience to my health care providers--rocking the boat, so to speak. Here I felt like I would be out of place if I wanted every standard pregnancy test available without asking what it was and what the point of it was. I felt like I was welcome, my questions were welcome, and I could totally see myself giving birth with these women standing by. They ended the appointment by giving me a little plastic model baby the size of the baby I was currently carrying, which Sammy immediately appropriated when we got home, dubbing it "Peach Baby" and locking it in her treasure box.

Picking a midwife is kind of a big deal when you're doing a home birth. She is there all the time, from exstensive prenatal care to labor to postnatal baby and mom care, not just dropping in for 10 minute appointments and (hopefully) showing up to catch the baby. I called my sister-in-law to ask for some advice for interviewing, and she said, "The first thing to do is to make sure the midwife isn't crazy." That seemed a little broad to me, but the more I thought about it the more I saw the truth there: make sure your midwife is ready and willing to send you to the doctor if you have risk factors, make sure she has a good track record, make sure her world view dovetails nicely with yours, etc.

So back to my first interview: I felt like I could give birth very confidently with Melissa, but is using the first midwife you interview like buying the first house you look at? It seemed precipitous. Austin was rooting for me to give birth with a midwife in the hospital to save him thousands of dollars, so we also went and interviewed with a midwife associated with the local hospital. I didn't like that she charged me 25 dollars for the meet-and-greet first off, (normally they are free with midwifes) but I tried to keep an open mind. She was like a lesser version of Melissa. She was very nice, but didn't inspire quite the same confidence. Also, even though the hospital she's associated with bills itself as natural-friendly, the more she talked about how I just have to deal with the hospital procedures, try to ignore them, try to get through them as fast as possible, and oh yes--how they won't let her bring a birthing pool in, the more I realized that I just can't have the birth I want in a hospital, no matter how natural-friendly. Sorry, Austin.

After that, I wondered if I should interview more midwifes, just so I was doing my due diligence and not buying the first house. I googled "Midwife Red Flags" to see if I had missed something important in my interview with Melissa, and the more I read about all the things a midwife could do wrong, the more I felt like my midwife was a rock star based on the information I had about her. After prayer and birth stories and conversations that helped me know my decision was right for me, I let Melissa know I wanted to use her as my midwife. I immediately felt like a rock star myself when she sent me a ton of information: what books to read, food to eat, what all the prenatal and infant tests mean, labor positions, etc. You know the sort of care that Angelina Jolie must get when she goes in to her health care provider for prenatal care? I felt like Angelina Jolie. I suddenly viewed my previous health care providers with scorn, and vowed to never return to a practice where I'm not treated like a Very Important Person.

Thus ends the ramblings for now. Before I decided on birthing at home, I knew I wanted a midwife no matter where I had my baby because I needed a lot of physical, mental, and emotional support throughout pregnancy and labor. I had heard that I could get that with a midwife, and it looks like it's true!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"The Way of the Peaceful Birther"

 Austin's first diaper changing job on Sammy

With Baby #1, I had a positive, induced epidural hospital birth experience. With Baby #2, I had a negative, natural hospital birth experience. When I first found out I was pregnant with baby # 3, I decided it was embarrassing how little I had researched birth, so I went to the library and just started checking out random books from the birth section. I wanted to be fair, so I checked out the whole spectrum, from books titled something like, "Your Medical Options," to the sort of book I would usually make fun of: "The Way of the Peaceful Birther." (This is actually a real title, complete with pregnant woman in misty wheat field on cover). I have to admit that the natural books were more interesting. Who are these crunchy granola/placenta eating natural birthers? Why do they love plant names for their children, conspiracy theories, and Native Americans so much? And why do I want to join them????

While I haven't jumped on board with encapsulating my placenta yet, (although it's supposed to be quite beneficial) I have officially committed to doing a home birth this time around. As my father-in-law put it after hearing of my intentions, "She's gone to the other side."

It's really hard to explain my decision to people.

Why do I feel like I have to justify the home birth to people? Probably because I think I know what they're thinking. They get the "that's nice" smile and don't really say much.

Why do I care what people think? I don't know, I just do. (Especially when it comes to my mother.)

I want people to know that I know natural birth and home birth are not for everyone, that I respect their birth choices, that I don't secretly look down on them, that my real passion is not for home birth but for every woman to educate herself about birth, the birth process, and the options available to her.

 After chatting with a woman who just got done doing her first home water birth after 6 kids birthed with epidurals and au natural in hospitals and birthing centers, I decided to basically copy and slightly personalize her explanation for why she went for a home birth, because it's easy for people to understand the reasoning behind it:

"The thought of going to the hospital again stresses me out. I have really short labors and I don't want to spend transition, the hardest part of labor, in the car and filling out forms." People get that sort of explanation--it's harder for them to understand my ramblings about my mental and spiritual journey to home water birth and the decisions I tried to make from a place of positivity, not fear. Still, to someone who I felt was really interested, I would probably talk about how I think there's a spiritual element to birth, the possibility of women having a sacred experience as they briefly become portals to another world and archetypes of Christ, something vague but important that I'm having a hard time grasping in the hospital. (All the while trying not to sound too New Age and trying to remember what their birth experience was so I don't offend them.)

So I'm not sure what you think about it, but the journey has begun. My midwife accepted my acceptance of her today, and I will be blogging about that soon!