Thursday, 20 August 2009

Birthing Warrior

I’m nearly halfway into my pregnancy and am starting to think about the miracle of birth and mission that is labor. Actually, I’ll be honest – I’ve thought about labor and birth on numerous occasions since conceiving. As I’ve said and you may realize, I’m a thinker for better and for worse. I haven’t been to any of my pre-natal classes on this topic yet, but I’ve done some reading, asked around and formed some opinions. Who knows if these will change as hormones continue to wrack my body and my due date approaches; who knows if I’ll stick to my guns in the throws of squeezing a baby out of my lower regions…. But for this moment, this is where I am.

I always pictured birth as you see it in the movies: lying spread eagle on a hospital bed, pushing with all my might. I also promised myself that I wouldn’t shout nasty things at Chris like, “How could you do this to me?!!” Plus, I’d be comfortably numb by a wonderful, soothing epidural. With medical pain relief practices like epidurals now common place, why would I take on body splitting pain? Those natural birthing ladies had to be mental…

So I thought, until I started exploring and my initial perceptions on labor and birth came tumbling down, down down…

I was surprised to learn that many women don’t give birth in a hospital bed, but instead from an array of upright positions ranging from kneeling to squatting to down on all fours. Maybe I was naive here, but I really didn’t have a clue. Aided by birthing balls, floor mats, steady relaxation breathing, pelvic rocking and most importantly gravity, women who birth upright often deliver with shorter labors and less medical intervention like forceps, ventouse and episiotomy. Epidurals, on the other hand, leave you immobile from the waist down in a hospital bed, catheterized and with greater chance of distressing your baby and needing delivery interventions since the drugs slow your labor and reduce your urge to push!

In the United States, epidurals are a very common form of pain relief – probably why I’d always associated them as given for birth. In the UK, they are also widely available but perhaps not pushed as much as less invasive pain relief options like gas and air are popular (which doesn’t appeal to me either since I don’t want to feel giddy or drunk when laboring). But I’m not picky or nuts...I’ve just decided that I’m going to be a Birthing Warrior. I want to be upright, I want to use my “in for four, out for four” breathing and I want to get in a zone and deliver naturally. I’m also curious to learn more about those TENS machines. I can’t imagine how exactly birth is going to feel but I am preparing myself for pain – “good” pain, that I am going to power on through like a Spartan and triumph over in order to bring my baby into this world. Cue glory music.

Shock of shocks, there are an overwhelming wealth of resources out there on natural birth that I just don’t have time to sift through. For a good overview, check out My Best Birth, a website associated with Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s documentary film ‘The Business of Being Born.’ My friend SH suggested this film to me, and though I haven’t got my hands on it yet it promises insightful observation into the “medicalization of pregnancy” in the United States and the more natural birthing options and venues that women can consider. More on that when I’ve watched the dvd. I also happened across this Giving Birth Naturally Site, which has a lot of information on the subject. Encouragingly, when I asked midwife at my hospital about natural birthing, she was very supportive.

While I’m on a roll here, I’ll also throw in my new found interest in exploring a home birth. I like the idea of avoiding the germ infested hospital and giving birth in my own domestic bubble of bliss. The neighbors might think a wild fox got trapped inside our house, but I’ll get to recover from labor in my own bed, with my own nice food, safe and sound with my family. Ideal. Unless, family and friends remind me, I face any complications in which case “Isn’t it better to be in the hospital?” Hmmm.

Interestingly, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not support home births while the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists/Royal College of Midwives does for women with uncomplicated pregnancies. Then again, pregnant B shared this NHS article with me, which discusses how home birth risks are still unclear. So as usual, there is not clear or right answer. Weighing up all the factors, I’ll probably end up choosing the hospital but I am still going to talk to my midwife about home birth...

I know that each labor and birth is different and birth plan and all, I can’t over-plan and will just do what is best for baby and me in the thick of it. I'm not knocking any form of pain relief because if you have a choice you need to do what's right for you, but my mental plan of action is to go as natural as I can – and the mental part of it has to be half, if not a little less than half, the battle.
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