Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Business of Being Born

Since I have been sick I have been watching a lot of movies on Netflix via my computer. (Thanks mom for letting me hack your account :) ) Tonight I watched this documentary called The Business of Being Born. It is a movie about home birth, midwives and some of the ways that medical interventions have removed the power of birth from the mother. It was an incredibly powerful, moving documentary and it really made me think about my birth experience.
I have been pretty open on my blog about my IVF experience, but I haven't really shared a lot of details about John's birth. I really wanted to have a natural childbirth. I wanted to do the Bradley method, which was so successful for friend's of ours. I wanted to avoid interventions and medications and the whole lot. Then I found out about my unicornuate uterus and the fact that it had the potential to have a major impact on my pregnancy. The risks for preterm labor and breach position were much higher because of the lack of space. Once I started seeing the perinatologist and having ultrasound after ultrasound we saw that John kept flipping and I started to feel like it was pointless to go through all of the training when we didn't even know if it would benefit us.
Then as I started to get further into my pregnancy, more things started hitting us. I previously thought that the battle for me was just going to be getting pregnant. I thought that the universe would take pity on me and let me have a beautiful pregnancy because we had already been through so much. It turns out that I was wrong. I had a very difficult pregnancy and ended up in the hospital for nearly a month due to preterm labor. I ended up going into labor for the last time at 34 weeks 6 days. I was still in the hospital, set to be released the next day, but they stopped my labor because I hadn't hit the magical 35 week mark. I mean, I had already been in labor 4 or 5 times. I was 100 % effaced, 5 centimeters dilated...I was ready to have this kid, but they stopped it. My wonderful doctor came back the next day and stripped my membranes and told me to walk around to try and induce labor, which I did to no effect. I ended up home the next day.
At exactly 37 weeks I thought I started feeling contractions again so we went back to the hospital. We didn't wait too long because I was already so dilated that everyone was nervous I wouldn't make it back to the hospital. Once I got there the nurse said that John's heart rate wasn't accelerating as it should. After trying for about two hours to get some results my doctor came in and broke my water. 20 minutes later monitors started going off and people started running into our tri-age room. John's heart rate had dropped to about 45 beats per minute. My doctor came in and flipped me on my side then checked to see if there was a cord issue. There was no cord wrapped around his neck, but his heart rate wouldn't go back up. There was no discussion, we were headed for a c-section. It was an e emergency, so they left Josh standing in the tri-age room while they ran me to an OR. When we got there John's heart rate had picked up enough that there was time to do a spinal instead of general anesthesia. That meant that Josh could come into the OR. He made it into the room, held my hand, and before he could even sit down we heard, "hello there." We had a very healthy 5lb 14 oz baby which was all that I ever wanted.
Here is the hard part though. There is a part of me that still wonders, could I have done things differently? I truly in my heart believe that vaginal delivery with immediate skin to skin contact is what is best for the baby. It breaks my heart to think of John being pulled out and immediately carried over to a scale to be poked and prodded. I didn't even get to hold him until the recovery room which was at least 15-20 minutes later. I look at moms who had natural deliveries and I feel like less of a woman, less of a mother. I don't think that I could have changed anything. I really think that we were one of those cases that needed serious medical intervention to prevent a tragedy. If I had to do it all over again I would do exactly the same thing. I mean, I would have given over my life to make sure that he came into this world healthy. I just wish, and I think it is probably ok to wish, that the circumstances had been different. I hope that when I have my next baby I have the strength to fight for what I want and play an active role in the making decisions for our care. I hope we get to do a natural V-BAC and that I get to experience the kind of birth that I dream of, but it I don't I will be ok as long as the baby is ok. (This is, of course, assuming that there will be another pregnancy).
I don't know, I guess this was sort of just a stream of consciousness post. It is something that I think about a lot but rarely express because it sounds sort of ungrateful.


  1. My experience with Logan was similar. He was so tiny that they had to rush him out of the room before I even had the chance to feel him. I told Brett to go with them so he wouldn't be left alone. After that was on so many drugs that I lost all track of time. I honestly have no idea how long it was before I was able to see my baby... and I couldn't hold him until he was out of the incubator the next day. It was horrible!

    The other kids, although they'd all been c-sections, were much more pleasant. They did plop the kids on a table to suck out their mouths, weight, and measure but they were so fast about it that Brett had the babies in his arms in a matter of seconds and I was able to have them pressed to my cheek soon after.

    Yeah, it's less intimate, and maybe it's a little selfish of me, but I loved not feeling the pain of childbirth - it let me focus more on the happenings of it all and the joy of it all :)

    You don't sound ungrateful. Having a natural birth was important to you! And it was right there in your sights too :) Your VBAC should be a successful one I think. At least your body knows how to dilate unlike mine, lol! Good things come to good people love! In the mean time - maybe you could try some voodoo and sick a raw egg in your belly button. Wait... that's not very vegan is it? lol!

  2. I'm not a mother, so I can't speak to your experience, but I do study motherhood. The history of motherhood and the medicalization of childbirth are topics that have been studied pretty extensively. Two really good books are Judith Walzer Leavitt's Brought to Bed and Rima Apple's Perfect Motherhood. They both speak to the way women's voices have been lost as childbirth has come under the purview of medical doctors.