I am about to get controversial on you. There is one thing that I think many birth professionals are doing a disservice to our clients on in the natural birth community. We teach women to pursue the perfect dream birth in many ways. Some of this is through books that encourage calling contractions rushes or pressure waves because then it won’t hurt or promoting stories about women with one hour labors and babies that come so fast the midwife doesn’t make it. Medical statistics encourage this by stating second babies come sooner or have shorter labors. Whatever the reason, we are setting many women up for “failure” when they do not achieve that “dream birth”. Women walk away from their birth experience feeling as though they did not have enough faith in themselves or in God. Maybe they feel like their care provider did too little or too much. They feel that their bodies are broken. I have not only read stories and witnessed such births, I have experienced this myself.
Ladies, you are putting too much pressure on yourselves to perform. The body doesn’t work that way. And rest assured, God doesn’t work by punishing you with a long or more painful delivery because you didn’t have enough faith.
Yes, it appears that statistically, second babies have shorter labors, but I am evidence that this is not a hard and fast rule. I am glad that I was not counting on these statistics when it came to my second birth. I was in labor with my second for 19 hours, while my first baby was only 8 hours. We are not in a race to beat our fastest time. Each and every birth unfolds according to that individual baby’s needs. We should allow our bodies to the work that they must do.
After reading all the recommended birth books and completing my training as a midwife, I had come up with my dream birth. With baby number three, I was going to have a water birth in my living room. My other two were going to be there in the house. The choice of being in the actual room was up to them though. I was going to have the baby’s loving, supportive father with me. My midwives and former preceptors were going to be there helping me to accomplish the ultimate birth. Well, if they made it in time, because I was totally ok with the baby coming too fast for them to get there.
Here’s my birth story in a nutshell:
I had a false labor on Thursday. My blown up birth pool sat filled in my living room for over a week. Sunday, I ended up in the hospital with intense pain. It was discovered that I had a raging kidney infection and my body was trying to pass kidney stones. My hope was to be given medications and sent back home to have my homebirth. Unfortunately, this was not my reality. I was hooked up to IV antibiotics and doped up on Demerol. It was not until Tuesday that I was able to pass the only stone small enough to come out.
I longed to go home and have my baby. I even promised to come back after the birth to let them care for my kidneys. But they started Cervadil in hopes of kicking my labor into gear.
By Wednesday, my blood pressure was going up as my kidney function decreased. I was now 40 weeks and my doctor worked hard, to now avail, to get my cervix to dilate. He even tried three times to break up cervical scar tissue, but nothing worked. I was placed on magnesium sulfate to try and control my rising blood pressure.
By evening, I was hallucinating and frustrated with everyone. I felt like I was being patronized over the hallucinations instead of people realizing that something was seriously wrong. Between the Demerol and the pain, I laid there thinking that I was dying all night.
When the doctor came in the following morning, I was ready for his purposed plan of the dreaded C-section. Needless to say, the whole experience was neither what I had anticipated nor what I had dreamed about in the previous months, but it was what was necessary at the time.
Over the next 6 months, I had extensive testing on my kidneys. Having been born with compromised kidneys, that had been taxed through three pregnancies, they were now severely damaged. My urologist informed me that I was not to give birth again.
So much for my “dream” birth. Did I feel cheated? I sure did. After all, what kind of midwife could I be without ever having a homebirth myself? It was bad enough that I had the C-section, but to not even be able to go on to have a VBAC really frustrated me. While I still dream about how awesome it would be to have that water birth in my living room, I know that God gave me that birth experience for a specific reason. Sure, having a homebirth would have enabled me to connect with clients on a personal level, but the "failed" homebirth, the C-section, the horrendous recovery that followed have given me an ability to connect with and minister to moms who have had to cope with unexpected outcomes in their own lives. This birth also enabled me to get knowledge about the condition of my kidneys and care that was necessary for them.
While it is fun to dream about your upcoming birth and make plans for it, keep in mind that every birth is unique and that we can not be 100% anticipatory of how things will unfold. Chances are that birth will unfold in just the right way for you. Take responsibility for your birth and the decisions surrounding it. Choose your birth attendants and care providers carefully. Know the birth philosophy of those attending your birth and make sure that it lines up with yours. If you find, at any point, that your care provider does not offer support in the way you desire, it is not too late to find someone who connects with you on a more personal level and is willing to support you and your birth choices.
What about you? Did you have a dream birth in mind? Did you get what you wanted/expected?
Editing done by Pamela Brott from Texoma Birth Center.