To be fair, it’s not my first rodeo. When I was 22 and pregnant, I wanted everything to be just so. My husband and I researched, read, and got super informed about everything birth and parenting. We knew what we wanted, what we didn’t want, and generally what we could expect from the experience. Then, one day 38 ½ weeks in, everything changed.
I was planning on giving birth sans epidural and as naturally as I could possibly manage. There was even a special room at the hospital just for natural birthing. But, when my midwife called me that Thursday morning to tell me that I had preeclampsia and they needed to get my son out, my hopes were dashed. The first thing I did was sit down and have a panic attack. I wasn’t ready.
Not long after arriving at the hospital, they hooked me up to a machine and started pumping pitocin through my veins. Like a lot of it. In thirty minutes flat I was doubled over in pain. I refused to get up and walk around my whitewashed, sanitarium-like room and the pain got more and more intense as my muscles tightened up.
Although my husband and I had decided on an intimate delivery with just us and the necessary medical personnel in my room, I wanted my mom with me for support for the hours I had to labor. I didn’t know how long I would have to endure the pain, and I was scared. When she arrived at the hospital, the nurse gave me two choices: she comes up to the room to stay for the whole thing or she doesn’t come up at all. (We simply can’t have people in and out all day!) I was devastated, and ended up asking mom to stay. However, every med student in that hospital caught a glimpse of my vagina as part of their learning experience that day. Apparently my mom leaving when it was time to push was just too disruptive, though.
Around 8.5 centimeters I started asking for the epidural. I just couldn’ t do it anymore. I couldn’t. My midwife was spectacular and helped me along so I could go without it, but I ended up pushing for an hour and a half. There was some relief when my son was finally born, but my entire body was stiff and sore from lack of movement, and I felt like I had been hit by a bus.
Five years later, I gave birth to a daughter. The plan was that my body would do its thing naturally this time, but no dice. We had planned to labor in a tub at the hospital, but once my blood pressure went up, I had to be induced once again and instead of some nice warm water to soothe my body as contractions came and went, I had to be hooked up to machines.
Eight hours in and I asked for the epidural once again. This time, the doctor immediately acquiesced and it wasn’t long before the sharp pains became softer, just uncomfortable. It all went quickly after that. Three pushes later — pushes that I honestly couldn’t really feel — the girl was out and it was done. I was up and walking around within the hour. It felt good.
She was born at two o’clock and the morning and hubster and I were pretty pooped. At this hospital, however, there was no nursery. (We barely saw any staff our entire time there.) As scared as I was that I was too tired to hear her cry, there was no one to take her for short periods of time so that we could rest. Yet another option was taken away from me for my birth experience.
I’m weeks away from delivering our third child, and I give up. I know that I’d like to give birth naturally, but I also know that I’m prone to preeclampsia and that changes what doctors will and will not allow when the time comes. I know that I’d like an intimate birth experience, but when I’m ready for the baby to be out, the last thing I’m going to care about is my modesty. I know I want to get a bit of rest before I go home, but the hospital policies won’t allow them to take the baby for a bit. I know that I want to co-sleep for the first few months, but if a nurse even thinks I’m starting to drift off with the baby in my arms, I’m likely to get an earful.
The first thing to remember here is that while birth is a completely natural experience, it’s unpredictable. While I do have an idea of what would be ideal, I understand that I’m not in control of pretty much any of it. It’s not ideal, but it’s ok. The most important thing is that we get this baby out safely, and if that means I don’t get my way, then so be it. I certainly don’t plan on letting the medical professionals pressure me into anything I’m not comfortable with, but I do plan on being flexible because at the end of the day, for me, it’s less about the birth and more about having a healthy baby.
Most things in life don’t go according to plan. Why would giving birth be any different?