I hope that if you are reading this and you are pregnant that you are aware of the range of interventions that can be done in a hospital setting. Knowing what might be offered or suggested gives you the opportunity to make a choice. Sometimes things are done without question.
In my first labor, I had planned for a natural home childbirth. I ended up transferring to a hospital and fortunately delivered naturally, but I didn’t have a birth plan drafted for a transfer – lesson learned.
I asked about each proposed intervention and chose based on the advice of the doctor and Molly – the student midwife who stayed with me while my midwife left to attend another birth. It was helpful to take a moment between contractions and assess how much strength I could put towards the least invasive measure presented but I was also at the point of exhaustion. I wanted this baby born already. Exhaustion and pain can push any well-meaning parent into a new territory. I’d like to say that I was a champion advocating for a natural childbirth to the bitter end, but if a doctor had presented a completely different option that would speed things along I would have gone along with it.
The tricky thing about first births, like Anna had written in a previous post, is that a woman hasn’t learned the ropes yet. She might think that she has wrapped her head around the stages of birth, but she has no muscle memory. We don’t know if our bodies, babies, and external circumstances will align to create a smooth birth.
I had a slight episiotomy to help my baby breach the birth canal. But research shows that the natural tearing that occurs during childbirth often heals quicker and more effectively than the episiotomy. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends avoiding an episiotomy unless it is “absolutely necessary”. All I know is my baby was born on the first post-episotomy push – thank you. But within minutes, the nurse was preparing to administer a post-partum dose of pitocin. Molly questioned the motive, and explained that breastfeeding my newborn would achieve the same result. A month later, I saw charges on my hospital bill for several other medications that I received in my short stay there. It’s still a mystery why I needed them.
My biggest fear surrounding labor is that I, or someone I know, will get stuck in the loop of interventions that trigger additional interventions and have that process derail us from the labor experience we want. Retired perinatologist and past director of WHO’s Women and Children’s Health program Marsden Wagner says it best in the birthing film “The Business of Being Born”. To paraphrase, we can have a cesarean or a number of interventions and end up with a normal, healthy, happy child in the end…but we lose out on that opportunity for a normal birth.
There is wisdom in other women’s birth stories. Stories of hope, triumph, joy, and loss. In these words, perhaps we can find hints that will lead us to the strength and resolve to make the right choices for us and our babies during labor. May we forgive ourselves if we don’t choose the best options. And may we be at peace with whatever labor we have.