When we started trying for baby #2, I knew that I would want a different labor and delivery experience for our next child. There were a few things about my prenatal care that I didn’t want to repeat and more than a few unpleasant impressions from our hospital delivery that left Kyle and me wanting something different. Ultimately we have a healthy kid despite all of it, but my main frustration was that I felt manipulated and deceived by some of my “handlers”. My borderline gestational diabetes was not something for them to help me with or educate me about. It was used as a tool of manipulation to scare me into agreeing to an induction date, despite me being clear this wasn’t something I wanted. (I agree inductions are sometimes necessary. But I didn’t think it was a medically necessary intervention for me.)
On the evening of August 12, 2009, after I was admitted to the hospital, my contractions stopped. I should’ve been sent home, but I wasn’t. So things got rolling the next morning with what was essentially an induction. It seemed like everything was happening TO us, rather than feeling included in the process. Like, “You’re here and so you’re just going to be put through the cogs of ‘how to have a baby in a hospital.'” And when it was time to push, I had no sensations that told me so or ability to push because of the epidural, which was NEEDED because of the intensity of the pitocin contractions. It was a completely pain-free delivery and then there were stitches. I was never told how many or anything, despite my asking directly. It was just all a weird mess. It happened to me. It wasn’t something I was involved in, really.
I knew I wanted something different. I wanted to feel included in my care. I wanted to make decisions and have caretakers who I can trust to honor my wishes and keep me safe. I wanted them to include Kyle and not treat him like, at best, a prop for delivery – at worst, a nuisance or a non-person.
I was surprised by how easily Kyle agreed to investigating other routes when I brought it up to him. He even agreed to a home birth when I jokingly suggested that’s what I wanted. So when I mentioned the birth center, he agreed quite readily.
My sister-in-law delivered both my niece and nephew at Charleston Birth Place. She had me photograph the new babies right after their births, so I was present during both of her deliveries (in the waiting area). And since she delivered there, I’ve had several other close friends who have delivered there. So if you’d asked me before orientation and before my prenatal care began, I’d have told you I knew about the birth center and would feel comfortable with delivering there. But now that I’m a patient there, I feel like I am getting to really know about the birth center and know for certain that they’ll be able to provide the type of care Kyle and I are seeking for this pregnancy and delivery. They educate me on my options, allow me to ask all the questions I want, entertain any ideas I have without making me feel silly, and have been so so great.
People who are unfamiliar with CBP can often make a lot of incorrect assumptions about it. I enjoy answering people’s questions about it because I like to dispel myths — like the fact that they offer nothing to help with pain. Not true!
Questions I’ve Been Asked:
- Are you delivering in the water? I won’t know the answer to this question until labor/delivery are happening. The option is available both to labor and deliver in the tubs at CBP. I hope to be in there at some point.
- Isn’t that kinda gross? I don’t think so. During the tour/orientation process, we were assured of the strictest standards CBP has for cleanliness and sanitation. So I’m not at all concerned about that aspect.
- So the baby will be born into water? Isn’t that kinda dangerous? No. My baby is in water right now and will be until after delivery. (S)He won’t know any differently until we pick him/her up and (s)he breathes for the first time. And it’s really only moments between birth and ‘out of the water’. It’s not like we’ll just leave him/her in there while we go about our day. Like any other style of delivery, we’ll want that baby in our arms as quickly as possible.
- Don’t you know they don’t have anything to help with the pain? CBP does have pain management options. Water birth (it’s not just so baby can take a swim after all the hard work of being born!), nitrous, sterile H2O injections, TENS machines, just to name a few. In addition to their classes which teach you beforehand how to prepare yourself and manage the pain.
- But what if something happens to you or the baby? CBP is located behind Trident Medical Center for a reason. It’s not by chance; it is by design. There are doctors – who I will meet during my prenatal care – who fully support the midwives of CBP and are available to do emergency c-sections or other, less-drastic but medically-necessary interventions as needed. If a transfer to TMC is needed, my midwife goes with me and stays with me. I cannot state it more clearly: I TRUST these ladies with my care. They know when to say “let’s pack it up and go next door”.
- Don’t you know that’s gonna hurt? I am not choosing this delivery method because it’s the most pain-free. I’ve had that before and could easily repeat it. But that’s not the route Kyle and I have chosen to pursue.
Mostly, though, can we just stop telling this to pregnant mothers? Can we stop discouraging and frightening the already-nervous, less-experienced mothers with our ‘frightening’ tales of what is so common and is so often repeated that it can’t REALLY be that bad or people would just stop having sex altogether. I mean, really. There are 6 billion people on this planet right now and every single one of them was born. From their mom. 6 billion births (give or take a few for multiples) and that’s just the people who are on the planet now. WOMEN HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOREVER! Count me in the number of them who would like to know what it’s like to actually FEEL and PARTICIPATE in the process that God has started.
I like what my mother-in-law, natural childbirth veteran of 30 years, says: “It’s the easiest pain to forget.”
And I love this quote from “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” (p. 3-4):
No one has explained (the situation of exaggerated emphasis being put on the pain of childbirth) more succinctly than Stephen King in his novella “The Breathing Method.” Commenting on the fear many women have of birth, his fictional character observes, “Believe me: if you are told that some experience is going to hurt, it will hurt. Most pain is in the mind, and when a woman absorbs the idea that the act of giving birth is excruciatingly painful – when she gets this information from her mother, her sisters, her married friends, and her physician – that woman has been mentally prepared to feel great agony.” King, you may not know, is the father of several children born at home.
Yes, childbirth hurts. But it’s not a pain that you never heal from. In truth, there might not be a more productive pain in the human experience. And – like all the woes of pregnancy – it is all worth it in the end.