If you want all the details of my first birth, they are here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).
I've mentioned before that this time around I want to have a birth without fear, so as I barrel toward my second child's birth, I want to take some
time to think about what I learned from the last one and what it means for this next
Here it goes (and it's going to be another long one!) What I learned from Little Spaghetti's birth:
The nurses play a much bigger role than I was planning on. This may seem obvious...but, for some reason, it wasn't for me. I spent time during my first pregnancy agonizing over my provider selection and eventually seeking out a midwife for a homebirth that never happened. I talked to my OB about my birth plan (though I know she never fully supported it). I thought I'd covered my bases. Until I got to the hospital.
I soon realized that my OB wasn't going to be a big part of my birth (I saw her two, maybe three times in the 12+ hour-long induction). The nurses handle most of it - and none of them knew me or what I wanted. And there's nothing I could do about that. At least this time around, I'm going in knowing that.
Trust my body. As I prepared for my son's birth, I read so many things about trusting that your body knows what it's doing because pregnancy and labor are very natural parts of life that women have gone through for all of time. And for a while, I truly believed that I did trust my body. But then, my due date came and went. And days that I went past my due date turned into weeks that I was past my due date, and I began to feel like my body was failing me. Like I'd never go into labor. Like my uterus just didn't have a clue what it was doing. I wanted to believe that I trusted my body, but looking back, I was kidding myself.
In the end, though, even after I was overdosed on pitocin, tranquilized, and had my labor stopped, my body did know what it was doing. Toward the end, as I started to feel a lot of pressure, I asked the nurse to check me. She said, "Fine, but there's no way you've dilated any more. You've haven't even been having real contractions. We're going to have to turn the pitocin back on if you want to deliver this baby."
But, to her shock and my pleasant surprise, I had dilated from a little more than a 6 to a full 10. Without even having what the medical staff considered any "real" contractions. My body did know what it was doing, after all.
Trust my instincts. When my water broke early on, I came so close to asking the nurses to turn off the pitocin. Or at least to stop turning it up. I really felt like my body could take over from there and let labor progress on its own.
I mean, I was 42 weeks pregnant. My water had broken. I was having very regular contractions. In some ways, I felt like the birth was a freight train that wouldn't be stopped at that point even if we wanted it to. I even remember asking my family and friends who were there if I should talk to the nurses about it. In the end, I decided the doctors and nurses knew what they were doing and not to say anything. Looking back, I wish I'd listened to my instincts and trusted myself, which brings me to...
Ask questions and to stick up for myself. It never hurts to ask, right? Unfortunately, that's not how I approached my last birth. I'm a people pleaser. I hate to make a fuss. I hate to put people out or annoy them. Part of me didn't want to offend the nurses during my labor, which is why I decided to just trust their expertise and not ask questions.
If I do anything differently this time around, I hope this is it. I want to make good choices and stick up for what I think is best for me and my baby. I want to be able to deal with confrontation without feeling like a failure. Or without feeling like somebody thinks I'm a bad mother who is making terrible choices that will endanger her baby.
I can ask for more time. I can ask for more explanation. I can ask what other options exist. I can even just ask to be asked again in a few minutes when I've had time to process what's going on.
Prepare others, not just myself. I was lucky to have my husband, my sister, and a good friend with me for my son's delivery. And they were all incredibly helpful and wonderful. I almost broke my husband's back because I was literally leaning on him for support for so much of the labor.
But, I had not prepared them well enough. I had told them about my plans and preferences, and I guess I thought that would be enough for them to help me make the decisions I'd need to make during the labor. It wasn't. But let me be clear, I do not blame them for that one iota.
This time around, I'm planning to have a doula. Or hoping, at least. She has to travel two hours to be at the birth (because I live in the middle of nowhere and there are no closer doulas), so assuming that we get plenty of warning, she should be able to be there. I've tasked her with being my memory - reminding me of what I want and reminding me to take the time I need to make decisions. I think that will be invaluable.
And to be honest, I'm not sure it's something I would ever ask my husband or another family member to do because I'd also underestimated how difficult it would be for them to see someone
they cared about in pain. They just wanted me and the baby to be ok,
which is all I'd ever ask of them. As I'm sitting there telling my husband that there's no way I can keep going without dying, can I really expect him to remind me that I didn't want pain meds?
Never underestimate the power of being passive-aggressive. I mentioned before that I'm a people pleaser, right? When, at 33-ish weeks, my baby was breech and my OB insisted on scheduling a C-section at 37 weeks, I about lost it. Not to her, of course, because I hate confrontation. But I started searching desperately for another caregiver. And I found a lovely midwife who took me on even though I was so close to the end of the pregnancy and was helping me plan a homebirth (that was abandoned once I hit 42 weeks and had to be induced).
I continued seeing my OB just in case I needed to have a hospital delivery, but at some point my midwife requested a copy of my medical records. I remember my OB asking me, in a rather accusatory way, at my next appointment, "Are you seeing a midwife? You're not actually considering a homebirth, are you?" I (to avoid confrontation - are you seeing a pattern here?) had not told my OB about my plans or the midwife. I mumbled something about having options and getting advice (which was partially true...my midwife had introduced me to a wonderful chiropractor who I credit with getting the baby to turn at about 34 weeks so I didn't have to have a c-section, which was my OB's only option) and was relieved when she didn't push the issue.
Anyway, I think that, in some roundabout way, having my OB hear from the midwife just how determined I was to try to have a low-intervention birth was more effective than anything I could have said to her. At my follow-up appointment after delivery, my OB said to me, "I really thought you were going to have a c-section. I wouldn't have let you go even as long as I did, but I know how much you really didn't want to have a c-section..."
I didn't think much about it then, but now, I'm pretty convinced that if she hadn't known about my plans for a homebirth, my OB would have been much pushier and made the situation out to be even scarier than it was so I'd go to the operating room.
I suppose, perhaps, if you're better at being up front with people than I am, a better title for this bullet point would be: Communicating with your care providers (especially about your preferences) is extremely important.
There's nothing to be ashamed of, and - in the end - it really is ok. No matter what my birth experience looks like, there's no part of it that should make me feel like a failure. My first birth experience wasn't perfect, but neither is my life. My beautiful baby boy came into this world surrounded by people who love him (I'll never forget my sister tearing up as he was born. And then asking if babies were supposed to be so gray.) He was alert and aware. And hairy. Like a little werewolf. He nursed like a champ. And he lights up my life every day.
As I look toward my next birth - though I have aspirations and plans for how I'd like it to go - the moment I know will mean the most is when Mr. Engineer and I meet our baby girl. When we look into her eyes for the first time and when she sees us. However and whenever that happens. And then, when she meets her big brother, and we become a beautiful, bigger-by-one family.
I can't wait.