Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Math teacher adds up the birthing options (Guest post)

"You are risking your baby.” 

 “I would never do that, what if something goes wrong?”

 “You are so brave.”

These are a few of the phrases I heard when I told people I was planning a homebirth.  Interestingly enough, I had previously uttered pretty much the same things before I had children.  I believe I said that I wanted to be in the hospital just in case something went wrong, so I understand that sentiment.  We see in the media the mad frenzy of excruciating pain that is labour.  It is reinforced regularly about how dangerous it is and how our Doctors are trained to make sure we don’t die (as most of us would, it seems) and that our babies will live as well.  So what changed my mind?

I can’t say that it was a sudden epiphany, that one day I woke up and said, “I shall now have a homebirth.”  It was more a series of experiences – either my own or ones that had been related to me; and research to see just how the safety compares.  For example, before I had my third, in my group of close friends between all of us, there were 13 children; 7 were born via C-section; 4 were inductions, two were spontaneous labour and even they had interventions (epidurals or Demerol).  So wait a second, NONE of us had bodies capable of giving birth without help?  If hospitals didn’t exist ALL of us would have died in child birth?  How did the human race survive to make over 6 billion people then?  Something didn’t add up (and as a math teacher with a degree in Astrophysics, I know when things should add up).

This is where the research came in.
I discovered several interesting facts, but two really stuck with me:
- In low risk pregnancies, the chances of serious complications are similar to that of giving birth in hospital, but the chances of having interventions are significantly lower.   1
- Exposing the baby to the natural flora in which he will be living is aids in getting his digestive system going and further, as I breastfeed, I already have antibodies to pass onto him for the microorganisms in my household (not to say my house isn’t spotless though); this will help to keep him healthier longer.  2

Further, my own hospital birth experiences lead me to want to make a change.  My first was fairly typical for a hospital birth: I started labour at home, went to the hospital, ended up lying down in bed with an epidural and a blood pressure monitor going off every 15 minutes; not being allowed to eat even though I was hungry and about to embark on a very physically demanding activity.  My OB-GYN wasn’t with me much until the actual pushing part and then I had to be told when I was contracting as the epidural cut off that information to my brain.  My overall labour was about 12 hours with 55 minutes of pushing.

Large baby on the way

My second labour, on the other hand, was an induction on my due date because my baby was going to be “huge” from my supposed gestational diabetes (I say supposed as I gained about 19 lbs for the pregnancy, but the sugar water test came back positive therefore I must have had it, right?).  Anyhow, they used the cervical ripening gel, which I later found out contains pig semen, yummy.  My OB-GYN went in to break my water for me … that hurt enough that I was scooching up the bed to get away.  She was saying sorry, but it still hurt!  Anyhow this caused my contractions to come fast and furious.  One would end and the next would begin.  I begged for the epidural.  I got it and the relief was fantastic.  The problem was it also stopped the contractions, so they gave me the Pitocin drip.  That brought them back.  

Eventually, I told them that I felt like I needed to pee and they said that was odd, I should feel like pooping when I was ready to give birth.  They checked and I was fully dilated, so the nurses asked me to do a test push.  I did and the result was that the baby move back into the uterus!  At this point they told me he was anterior breech (sunny side up instead of over easy).  The Dr came in and said that she would leave me there for a while to see if the contractions would flip him or labour would be much harder.  Later, I found out that he never would have flipped unless I got on all fours to give him the room to do it and gravity to help.  I stayed there wanting to push, for two hours, ignoring the urge.  Then the nurses came in and saw that every contraction led to a rapid decal in the fetal monitor heartbeat.  Things happened fast then.  They got my OB-GYN in and a bunch of equipment.  She said that we had to get the baby out right away.  

Vacuum extraction birth

The vacuum came out and so did Logan … in four minutes.  She pulled hard enough that the vacuum tube actually separated from the suction pad three times and she went flying backwards.  Once Logan came out, they checked to see if he was okay – he was; meanwhile I was stitched.   I asked how badly I had torn that she was there so long and she said that she had done an episiotomy to get him out and that she hadn’t counted the stitches, but they were in three layers.  Further they weighed him and my huge baby was 7 lbs 3 oz.  The pain of healing from the episiotomy isn’t something I would wish on my enemies (well, maybe my worst enemy, but no-one else).

I relayed his birth to others and I realized that it didn’t have to be that way.  He wasn’t ready.  If he had been left alone and I had done some of the baby turning activities I read about later, then maybe he would have flipped and none of it would have happened.  I then read more about homebirths, but as we were done having kids I reconciled myself with not getting the chance.  It seems that fate, and one New Year’s Eve celebration had different ideas.

A change is made

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I contacted the local midwifery organization.  I met with them and was immediately put at ease.  They were so professional and caring; I knew I had made the right decision.  When I mentioned that I wanted a home water-birth, they practically jumped up and down with glee.  They told me which pool to get (I got it on sale for $20 at Canadian Tire), and though I was a bundle of nerves; after all this was the first labour I was going to feel; I felt ready.  I went into labour, at exactly 37 weeks – what an impatient boy!  After twelve hours of labour I gave birth at home to a 7 lb 4 oz boy in one push.  The biggest difference I can say was that I was in charge.  No-one told me when I was going to push, I told them.  Actually I am fairly certain I growled unintelligibly, but they got the point.  It was so serene, so much more peaceful, the lighting was quiet, people weren’t walking in and out of the room, there weren’t monitors beeping everywhere and I ate and drank when I felt like it!  

I guess what I am trying to say is that it felt exactly right and I am grateful I had the opportunity to give birth the way I was designed to.

Alison Kennedy
Hon B. Sc.; B. Ed.

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