I met Sally online and laughed out loud when I learned she was mere miles from me. I got to meet her in real life a few weeks later, when we traded diapers. Her son, Sullivan, is a few months younger than Ames and could probably eat him for dinner – chunk monster! Sally is a sweet Southern girl who recently welcomed her Army solider home from deployment. He deployed when Sully was only days old. She did an excellent job holding down the fort while Daddy was gone. She ran the household, mothered her son enough for the two of them, built a successful blog following, and finished off the deployment by moving to another state and setting up a new home for them just in time for his return. Check out her blog – she’s got great diaper giveaways in her “Months of Fluff” and always has cute pics of Sully for us to snack on.
When sweet Sally from Exploits of a Military Mama asked me to do a guest post on natural birth, I got really excited. And then I got really nervous. What if these mamas didn’t have a natural birth, and they cyber-stone me? What if their experience was just as beautiful as mine (aren’t they all?), and they think I’m being snobby?
But you know what? Sally didn’t have a natural birth, and her experience was great (for the most part).
And she still wants me to write about it for her nice readers. So I’m gonna say what I think, no matter how controversial… please don’t hurt me. Here’s a cute picture of my kid, to start the post off right.
I became interested in natural birth when I started nursing school. I saw The Business of Being Born at a local screening, and it changed my life. Seriously. I watched these women labor peacefully in the comfort of their own homes, supported by other women and family. I cried with them as they brought life into the world on their own terms. All of this, from a movie! I was hooked.
I began devouring every piece of birth-related information I could find. I quickly discovered some not-so-pleasant things about this country’s birth process, mostly involving unnecessary interventions and a severe lack of education for pregnant women.
I don’t judge women for having intervention-filled births. It’s a free country, full of beautiful technology.
I judge women for subscribing to the system and making decisions without educating themselves. I’ve met many women who’ve regretted parts of their labors, for this very reason…”I let them break my water” or, “I held out until they convinced me to get the epidural.” I didn’t want to be in this position. I didn’t want any regrets. I wanted more control than that.
I also learned about the business of birth. Labor and delivery is the money-maker of every hospital. I work on a medical-surgical unit with broken vital signs machines and 1980’s carpet. The maternity center downstairs has hardwoods and jacuzzi tubs in each room. The more beds they turn over, the more money they make. I sat in on a meeting last week where the managers discussed the new discharge plan for Labor & Delivery…”We want our new moms out by 11am, but don’t make them feel rushed!” Do you think a natural birth that goes on for hours (or days) is going to bring the hospital any money? They’d lose on a patient like me. I didn’t use anesthesia or surgical services. I didn’t receive bags of fluids or nausea medications.
No, the hospital is not interested in the natural birth client. So they don’t support it. They want results, and fast. And there’s really nothing wrong with that, when one look at things objectively. Birth in America is a business. I just want women to know this before they make such important decisions.
So when we found out we were pregnant, I wanted to stick it to the man. I started planning a home birth. I finished up nursing school and sat for my state boards with baby Ames somersaulting inside of me. I applied and interviewed for jobs at a big hospital, while I nested and prepared to have our baby at home. I felt so rebellious, so sneaky!
When the day finally came, it was a very exciting moment. I went into labor as the sun rose, and I pushed Ames out 20-something hours later, in our bedroom. Friends and family stood right outside the door and celebrated. It was so surreal. Looking back, there are a few things that stand out as I compare my natural birth to what I imagine an intervention-filled birth would have been like.
Freedom of movement — Nobody told me I had to lie on my back at any point during my labor. Nobody slowed me down to strap a fetal monitor onto my belly. My midwives just found a way to listen to the baby’s heart rate whenever it was convenient, and they were willing to get into the same crazy positions as I.
Mama calls the shots — I ate and drank (and pooped and threw up once) throughout my labor. Nobody put any restrictions on my intake. I was in a sports bra and underwear for part of the time. I was naked with a robe (sexy) for most of it. I jumped from shower to bath to yoga ball to stairs to bed to birth stool, and there were no rules.
Baby calls the shots — Although it does happen, long labors in the hospital are not common. My midwives were not concerned about how long it took. They did not freak out when his heart rate dropped before the pushing phase. They unwrapped the cord from around his neck (twice) and his chest (once) without batting an eyelash. They let Ames slow his own respirations to an appropriate rate, by trusting my instincts and letting him lie on my chest for hours.
I’m thankful that I got to experience the sensations – the contractions, the transition, the urge to push.
I’ll be the first to vouch for the oxytocin rush and endorphins. It’s true – “it’s not that bad.” And yes, I’m thankful that I got to pull my own baby out and up onto my chest, and I was awake and alert and full of adrenaline. And yes, I feel that women who don’t get a chance to do this are missing out on something spectacular.
But that’s not what I’m passionate about. I’m passionate about empowering women and encouraging them to read and watch and listen and learn. It’s one of many responsibilities we have as parents – to bring our children safely into the world. And above all else, I’m thankful I was able to choose.