As we anticipate getting pregnant with number two, I've been thinking about my labor and delivery choices. For my first birth, I gave birth in a hospital without drugs with an OB attending the birth (ahem...catching the baby). For my second birth, I intend to give birth without drugs again, but I hope to go to a birth center this time around and use a midwife.
I won't try to hem and haw around the topic. Labor was the most intense and horrific pain I have ever encountered and pushing was even worse. But then, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles - a little life emerged and overshadowed my life with love. I was enchanted by her sweetness - her long lashes, her soft skin, her button nose, and her tiny fingers and toes.
Then, the pain seemed inconsequential. I immediately had a sense of euphoria and I knew that I would do it all again for that precious bundle that lay snuggled in my arms.
Some people might ask (and sometimes I ask myself), "Why would you go through all of that pain when you can get instant relief with the push of a needle?" The answer is simple and also very complex. Part of it is the control that I would give up if I had the drugs. Instead of being aware of my body, I would have to succumb to the beck and call of the drugs. Part of it is that I don't want the vulnerable little one inside of me to be exposed to drugs - if I can help it. Part of it is that I like the "quick recovery" aspect of natural labor. And, finally, there was something empowering and beautiful about just letting nature take its course - "giving in" and watching my body work.
I wrote my birth story a few months after the momentous day of my daughter's birth - here was my introductory paragraph:
"Some people describe birth as a “rite of passage.” Others call it a “miracle”, a completely life-altering event wherein a baby emerges from the body of its mother and takes its first breath as a separate, unique individual. And these sentiments resonate with me. Birth was truly a beginning – of so many things – it was a door that suddenly opened before me. In one magical moment, my whole outlook on life, everything important to me, the underpinnings of all that I am and will be – changed."
And here's how my birth story ended (minus some of the details)...
"...Fifteen minutes later, I was in transition and felt the urge to push. And, boy, did I feel the urge to push. You hear about it from other women and read about it on websites with birth stories. But the written word can’t really do justice to the sensation. It is beyond your control. Your body is working so hard. And in between screaming, you try to breath, you try to keep from passing out.
...Then, the doctor appeared. Along with a whole cast of women in scrubs. Calm, she put on her gloves...The doctor counted with me at my lead, when the contractions appeared, 1, 2, 3…(scream).
The baby’s head came out and then went back in, out and in, out and in…and then, in one miraculous moment that I will never forget, she slid out.
And there she was, beautiful – the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in all my life. Bloodied and crying, but oh-so-precious and small and perfect.
I smiled at Tim, “I did it.” “You did it,” he said. We smiled.
As the doctor delivered the placenta and then stitched up my second (almost third) degree tear, I couldn’t take my eyes off of my little beauty. She was even prettier than I had imagined – and so delicate and small and lovable.
14 hours of unbelievable, unspeakable pain. And, then – poof! – just like that, I knew I would do it all over again for her. I knew that I could. For her."
That was my choice. And I do realize that pain during labor (the length, the intensity, the management of it) is a very personal choice and I certainly wouldn't cast a stone at women who made a different choice. But, as women, I do think it helps to share stories and recount the pros and cons of various techniques. Thus, I share my story.
Over the next few months, I'll be interviewing moms and founders of various pain management methods (Lamaze, Bradley, and beyond) to give you "inside information" about what works and what doesn't.
While we're on the topic, what did you choose and were you satisfied with your birth experience?
(Pictured...me (moments after delivery) - not my finest hour in terms of beauty, but perhaps one of my finest hours in other ways).