Thursday, February 16, 2012

Natural Childbirth....Say Whaaaa?

I'm somewhat hesitant to do a post on this because I know lots of people have their own strong opinions.  And I definitely don't want to somehow seem judgmental or critical of other people's decisions.  Also, there are a number of readers who have actually given birth - and I have not, so I don't want it to come across like I'm the big expert since I read some books/watched some movies/went to some classes.

So disclaimers aside, I'm going to take a lengthy blog post second to discuss my "birth plans" and my thought process on the whole thing...

On this blog, in the past, when I've referenced "natural" childbirth, what I mean is a birthing experience without any pain medication.  And I'm hoping to have one of these said experiences.  That is, no numbing agents, pain relievers, relaxation drugs, etc., while I try to extract a 7+ pound human from my body.

Say whaaaaaat?

When Did I First Think About Doing This?
It's been awhile, actually, that a natural childbirth has been on my mind.  Probably since before I got married, to be completely honest.  It became a serious thought around the time (a few years ago) when I generally became more incredulous about the medical/pharmaceutical industry and/or felt like pharmaceuticals in our country were pushed a little harder than they might need to be.

While I absolutely adored my old OBGYN, I eventually switched doctors because I felt like he was a "medicine pusher."  I'd talk to him at my appointments about little aches and pains ("sometimes I have trouble sleeping," "sometimes I have headaches in the mornings" - whatever it was) and I'd leave the office with 5 prescriptions "just in case" I needed them.  That didn't feel right.  I would've much preferred "try not eating or drinking a couple hours before bed" or "take a shower or bath right before you get in bed" instead of "here's Ambien."  (And, I mean, if more natural remedies didn't work, then we could put Ambien on the table as an option, but I didn't think [and still don't] that a drug should be the first fix for a somewhat innocuous ailment.)

So this made me wonder about childbirth.  It seemed that in a healthy woman, certain "standard" procedures that happen in a hospital birth just aren't necessary.  I decided to switch doctors because I felt like whenever I was ready to have a child, my old OB would try to push the epidural or c-section in the way he pushed the Ambien.

What Confirmed My Decision on Childbirth?
As you all can probably tell, I like to research the crap out of things I'm interested in doing.  And I've got to say, once you start doing research about drugs during the birth process, if you're at all interested in trying to birth without them, you'll be highly intrigued.  Or you'll at least be convinced enough by the research to try to do it natural.  I don't really want to get into some of the research studies on the blog (because if you've given birth with drugs - I think that's great and was your own well-thought, personal decision).  But I'll also say, if you're at all interested in trying to go natural, read some books and watch some movies and see if they don't spark a little desire.

So Really, Why Do I Want To Do This?
I like to compare my desire to do this to running a marathon (or doing more crazy things like Ironmans and ultra marathons).  Some people decide they want to push their body to the ultimate max by training and completing these races.  Why?  For a variety of reasons: to prove that they can; to cross it off a bucket list; to experience something that many people on our planet will never experience; because they like the rewarding feeling at the end of the torture; because they like the feeling of getting into a mental "zone" and using mental stamina in addition to physical strength to get through the race.

Well, those are all reasons I'm interested in having an unmedicated birth (that is, aside from the "experience something many people on our planet won't" - because lots of women around the world everyday are doing this because they have no other option).  Do I think it will be easy?  Of course not - I'm not naive.  But do I think it's attainable?  Yes.  I think God created a woman's body to do this; and I want to experience what my body was created to do (even if it freaking hurts!).  And of course, the "reward" at the end of the "race" will be one of the biggest blessings in my life.

I'm not necessarily saying drugs are bad or that babies born in medicated births are at a disadvantage compared to their unmedicated peers.  It's just my own personal choice to try to make everything as close to nature as possible.

So Do I Really Think I Can Do It?
Ha.  This question is pretty loaded...  Do I think I can do it?  Yes.  But am I scared?  Yes.

I think there's a certain level of assertion that needs to go along with preparing for this experience.  "I can deliver this child without drugs."  But on the flip side, there's a chance that I won't be able to handle the pain.  If I'm in labor for a loooong time or I have to be induced with Pitocin or if I'm exhausted or beaten down or suffering or any other unknown problem, I want to get an epidural/do whatever needs to be done to have a healthy baby (even if that means c-section).  A lot of the books on natural labor emphasize the difference between pain and suffering.  Pain is going to come with the experience, suffering should not.  And each woman's definition of the two is uniquely her own.

I want to mentally prepare myself to do this.  But at the same time, I don't want to put myself in a position to feel bad or angry at myself at the end if I get an epidural or have a c-section.  That's a tough line to walk!

What Does Jonathan (Birth Partner) Think?
I asked him the other day, "do you wish I was like most other women and just wanted to get an epidural?"  Ha.  Because the desire to do this naturally has meant a lot of additional birth classes and reading materials and graphic movies than the standard labor prep.  He's definitely supportive, though.

But I think (I hope!) he's excited, too.  Once drugs are taken out of the equation, the birth partner becomes a vital part of the labor experience.  In fact, I think at the end of the whole thing, he's probably going to be worn out (not as much as me, mind you, but still worn out) by the physicality he'll also experience - ie, providing counter-pressure on my back, holding me up in different positions, being on his feet for a lot of hours.  Something about that seems a little more rewarding than just sitting next to me on the bed while we watch tv and see my contractions on the monitor.

Concluding Thoughts
I haven't yet mentioned that my mom had a natural birth with me and loved the experience - she still talks about it 30 years later!  Also, I've had a fair amount of friends labor this way, so I've been able to talk to people about their birth experience, which has been encouraging.

Of course my number one priority is to have a healthy baby - so I'll do whatever it takes to make that happen.  I really hope and pray, though, that everything will go "normally" and we won't have any scary complications.  And I also hope and pray that I'll be able to handle the pain and experience the birth without any pain meds.

Everyone says the only thing you can really plan for in labor is for your plan to not go exactly as you're expecting.  We'll see...


LB said...

I think this plan sounds awesome. And I definitely think you can do it, barring any unforeseen complications that make it hard for the baby. I still remember my psych teacher at Rhodes talking about how intensely amazing the birthing experience is without drugs. You're one tough m-f-er (sorry "cookie" doesnt exactly pack a punch :)) and I whole-heartedly believe you'll make it happen!!!!

Kate said...

So excited for y'all!! I had an epidural with Joseph and had James naturally. I wanted a natural childbirth for both but after my water breaking, pitocin, and not much progression, we thought an epidural was necessary. Don't feel bad if you have to choose it and don't let that change in your birth plan dampen the beautiful day of your child being born! I'll be praying that everything goes well for you and that you are able to have the baby naturally!!

AmyBethJames said...

You've got a great plan and a great attitude about everything! I was never interested in natural childbirth (and thought anyone who was must be crazy) until I became pregnant. Now I'm so glad I did it and feel so thankful I had such a good supportive team around me. Don't listen to people who will try to scare you off... I don't know why, but people feel like they can say anything to a pregnant lady, and that includes horror stories. You'll do wonderfully and I'll be praying for a sweet labor and delivery experience. :)