natural birth mania
Sometimes natural birth advocates spend so much time fighting against the "over-medicalization" of birth, they end up making women feel like failures if the birth doesn't turn out to be a swimmingly perfect, all "natural", intervention-free, awe-inspiring experience. The fact is that the way a birth unfolds is not always, or even often, within our control.
Here's one new mom's story:
"Pregnant women out there, please, just keep an open mind. YOU DON'T FAIL if natural birth eludes you.... I was desperate for a natural birth. After reading the books I decided that I'd rather die than ask for an epidural...."
"When I found out about my pregnancy, after the initial joy I couldn't help but dread (even though it seemed so far away) giving birth eight months later. I heard enough horror stories of the excruciating, "out of body experience" pain and I already pictured myself lying in a cold hospital bed with my legs in stirrups screaming my head off. I was quite ignorant back then and I didn't really know that stirrups are not used anymore and the active birth is rather encouraged in the hospitals (private or public) in Australia. I decided to stay fit during my pregnancy and to enroll in a yoga class as soon as possible.
At twelve weeks I started my class and met the most positive, optimistic, inspiring woman in Jacque, our teacher. She managed to change my mind from "being shit scared" of giving birth to actually looking forward to it. She was describing to us her three quick, beautiful, spiritual labors in a way that we all wanted to give birth badly "tomorrow".
She got me hooked on the topic. I started avidly reading all the books about natural, active birth I could put my hands on. Sheila Kitzinger, Janet Balaskas, Michel Odent became "my best friends" and it seemed the only subject I could talk about to anyone (literally anyone...) I came across was: the only way to go, the natural birth. Refuse the drugs, refuse any medical intervention, greet the contractions, keep active, squat, go on all fours, walk and in a few hours your baby will slip into your arms and he will be happily sucking your boobs. Then, you bond.
It started with my water breaking at 4.30 am on a Friday.
"Don't rush to the hospital as the chance of infection is greater than at home", Sheila's words were voicing in my ears. "Handle the contractions at home until they regular and close apart." I did. I was handling the mild/strong contractions with controlled breathing until about 6pm when they became almost unbearable. By then I was in such a terrible pain, that I couldn't make the five minute trip to the hospital sitting in the front of the car. I was on all fours in the back.
When they examined me, I was only two centimeters dilated. After 35(!!) hours of walking, squatting, having several hot baths, showers, but most of the time being on all fours leaning on a beanbag while my husband incessantly massaged my lower back until he rubbed off my skin (no kidding), going through about six midwives, I was still suffering without my "fruit". I wasn't dilating and my baby's head wasn't in the right position. I was fit and prepared physically and mentally and so hyped up to give birth naturally, that I barely noticed the time going! Apart from doing yoga during my pregnancy, I walked an hour every day with my dogs, I went swimming, I ate healthy, I never smoked or drank, I stopped working at 14 weeks hence no stress, no fights with my hubby and I wasn't moving house or renovating as, for some reason, so many women tend to do during their pregnancy.When I wasn't exercising I was sitting in my semi dark room surrounded with candles reading books about Buddhism (besides the ones of my gurus of course). I had the calmest, most relaxed, probably THE ideal pregnancy. I was desperate for a natural birth. After reading the books I decided, that I'd rather die, than ask for an epidural!I won't let myself induced no matter what and the Caesarian will be just out of question. I want THE spiritual birth, with my baby slipping into my arms and all that.
However after 35 hours suffering and not progressing (despite having a pain threshold as high as the Himalayas...) I broke down and I started crying uncontrollably. All this effort for nothing! I just didn't progress. I ended up demanding a Caesarean!!! The doctor suggested putting me on the drips to get the contractions stronger, hopefully I would dilate (you could call him optimistic I guess..) At that stage I gave up completely. They could have done anything to me. I could not handle one more second of pain anymore.The epidural followed…
I could not believe the effect of it! The vicious needle saved my life!!!! After all this agony, I could have just fallen asleep, but I was busy joking and flirting with the anesthetist and the doctor. Unsurprisingly, four hours later I still didn't dilate, so I had to have a Caesar.
My 10lbs 4oz (4.65kg) baby was taken out of my tummy perfect and pink. He wasn't distressed, he wasn't squashed or blue, he wasn't lacking oxygen, which would have been most likely the case if I gave birth vaginally. His heartbeat was perfect all the way. He was alert straight away and he is an extremely relaxed and happy baby. According to Sheila and Janet, what he went through he should be fretful and unsettled. I can't say we bonded in the theater though. But frankly I doubt we'd have bonded if I gave birth naturally either. Bonding takes time, it happens gradually. You give birth naturally, but the babysitter takes over a few weeks later what happens with the bonding?
Six weeks later, I'm almost back to my old self. I fit into my old clothes, my scar is healed and I walk an hour a day again. My intention with my story is not to promote the Caesarean. I would try to give birth naturally again (probably). However I do feel betrayed by those books. They made me feel, 'not being able to give birth naturally would be the end of the world.' It is not. They made me feel, 'if I do everything right I'll manage to pull it through.' I feel stupid and brainwashed. I had a very traumatic birth experience, which I won't forget for a while. Having an elective Caesarean is probably one extreme, I was the other.
Pregnant women out there please, just keep an open mind. YOU DON'T FAIL if natural birth eludes you. "