I’ve had two kids, and two very different birth experiences. Looking back on my first child’s birth, I’m haunted by so many things I wish I had known. I knew I wanted a more fulfilling, enjoyable, rewarding experience with my daughter, and her birth gave me back the power and control I knew I deserved.
My hope for all women who are pregnant is that they be informed, educated and directly involved in all decisions related to their pregnancy and childbirth. The mom deserves it, and so does her child.
Note that I’m not a medical professional, just a wannabe midwife who has a passion for educating women about their options.
Sarah before Tiny was born
For the most part, you have more choices than you might think. And those choices will not only affect your birth experience, but your recovery… and your baby as well. That’s reason enough for me to help you make the educated choice.
It’s no secret that I’m an advocate of natural birth, and letting the baby come when they’re ready. Of course there are some things which are unavoidable, and in those instances it’s a matter of survival – do what has to be done to save mama and baby. But more than 95% of the time, interventions aren’t necessary.
I have had one birth with an OB at a hospital, and one with a midwife at a birth center. The second time around, I just KNEW SO MUCH MORE. I knew things like: epidurals will raise my chance of needing a C-section by 50%+; not being able to eat or drink while in labor is stupid; being stuck in bed while laboring (from monitor belts and IVs) hinders my body’s ability to progress; I need gravity to help me move baby down; and tons of other things.
So much of this makes sense when you think about it – the problem is, too many women blindly trust their OB. But why shouldn’t they? You have to trust your caregiver or else why would you go to them at all? But a well-meaning mother, who loves her child, has no reason not to take their doc’s word for it.
That’s what makes me so damn angry about this situation. There are thousands of women right now who are pregnant, and want to do the right thing for their baby. But if all they do is listen to their OB, they’re not made aware of all these facts. They have no idea that there’s a BETTER WAY.
I’m not anti-OB or anti-hospital, either; there are certainly instances that are literal “emergencies”, and high-risk pregnancies can benefit from the pathology-based mentality of an obstetrician. But nowadays it isn’t common for an OB to even witness a drug-free birth during training! They’re taught “something’s always wrong and we have to save the mom from her body and her baby.” OBs are classically trained to use tools like forceps and the vacuum, not things like various positions and massage.
When you get care through an OB you also need to know a few things, like what hospital(s) they deliver at (you’ll be slave to the hospital’s liability restrictions); what the OB’s thoughts are on issues like induction and epidurals; and their c-section rates. Ask all this stuff up front – it’s possible to still change care providers late in the game, but it’s a pain and you might lose some money.
In my experience, even the prenatal care you receive is vastly different with an OB. For my first baby, I’d show up early to an appointment and sign in. Wait in a huge waiting room, get called back for vitals, back out to wait. A nurse I don’t know finally calls me back, asks me a few questions, has me undress and I sit in a paper gown on a cold table. Usually I doze off because I have to wait so long. Then my OB would come in and have to look over my chart to remember who I was. He was intelligent and straightforward but I always felt like he was too busy for me. Our chats were quick and impersonal.
I will say that there was nothing about my OB in particular that I didn’t like: I mean, it was certainly awkward going through my first pregnancy with a male OB but he was quite intelligent and agreeable for the most part. When I was in labor he had no problem trying to grant my wishes of a natural birth. But his hands were ultimately bound by the rules of the hospital.
Mama and Tiny
When I found out I was pregnant again in January 2015, I went to get an ultrasound to make sure the baby wasn’t ectopic, and I saw this same OB. And I asked him face to face if our hospital allowed water births. He basically said no and listed why his hospital would never allow it. We spoke for a few minutes on what I wanted out of this pregnancy and birth, and I was sure from my research that this wasn’t my best option. So I broke up with him.
I scheduled a tour with my husband and son at the birth center, and instantly felt at home. It was like a bed-and-breakfast with an exam room. People were kind and sincere, and all the moms we’re excited to tell me about how happy they were there. THIS was what I had wanted.
With a midwife I always saw the same people, and had such a level of comfort and familiarity. My birth center was small (staff of less than 10) and the waiting room was small and cozy, with a lending library and toys for siblings. They remembered my stats and due date, but more importantly they remembered ME. I was a human being and I deserved their time. I had 45-60 minutes per appointment with my actual midwife, and it didn’t feel like a medical appointment. I felt so at ease asking all kinds of questions, and nothing was too sacred or TMI.
THIS was what I had wanted.
I also found that my midwife had a much more natural approach. Whereas my OB had instantly wanted to prescribe Zofran for my extreme morning sickness, my midwife encouraged me to look into ginger and peppermint remedies (which helped). My OB had wanted me to take Tylenol daily to help with sciatic and lower back pain, but my midwife referred me to a prenatal chiropractor (who also was very natural and encouraged less invasive techniques). Instead of just having me take more pills – scribble a prescription out and be done with me – I was coached on safer, less restrictive things to do for my symptoms.
Midwives are not witch doctors who shrink heads and boil mysterious potions in cauldrons. They have medical training, but the focus is on natural birth. Midwives learn how to tell a baby’s age and position in the womb with their bare hands; they have remedies for turning a breech baby instead of just doing a c-section; and they implement techniques to keep you from tearing or being cut. Our species has thrived on this planet for 200,000 years, and not because of epidurals and pitocin. If you’re not a high-risk birth, you really do need to see what birth can be like. This includes if you’ve had a previous c-section or if you’re pregnant with multiples. Birth can be beautiful, not scary.
I hate that the media and society always portray childbirth as a stressful time of pain and screaming and helplessness. That’s not how it has to be! No one should WANT a c-section unless it’s a matter of life and death for mama and baby. (Have you ever watched what actually happens in a c-section???). And not the OB claiming that it’s necessary. Some have been documented as pressuring a woman to have a c-section, saying it’s to save the baby, when they just didn’t want to work late. Seriously?
My hope through this article is to open your eyes to a 360 degree view of birth. If you’re pregnant, ask questions. Read books. Interview and do research. Make a birth plan that doesn’t include “get the epidural as soon as I walk in the door.” Because it’s not that simple. If you have no plan for dealing with the pain, and it doesn’t work out like you anticipated, you’re gonna have a bad time. You now have no way of coping with hours of pain.
Birth can be beautiful, not scary.
Ask yourself: why do us pregnant ladies obsess for nine months over all the crap we aren’t supposed to eat (sushi, cold deli meat, alcohol, etc) but then get injected with tons of stuff as soon as we walk in the hospital door? The baby is still attached! And their heart rate, stress level, and oxygen level are still affected by everything that you intake.
And did you know that your hospital bed (the creepy one with the ankle stirrups) wasn’t designed to help you? Nope. It’s for the convenience of the doctor. Oh good. Anything for you, Doc.
Think about it: no other mammal on earth lies on their back to give birth. Why? It’s stupid! It’s counter intuitive! Use gravity to help bring baby down. It’s less work on your body and what we were designed to do. Squatting and sitting, or even being on all fours, makes so much more sense (and feels so much better – take it from someone who’s done it both ways). When you’re allowed to just listen to your body and “go with it,” it’s really awesome how you subconsciously just KNOW what to do. Having a traditional hospital birth skewers all of those primitive instincts. And makes labor that much harder.
Then comes the irony of the hospital full circle: you have to use unnatural methods to bring baby down, but if you don’t do it fast enough we pressure you to get drugs, which makes it even harder for you to progress, and when we think it’s been “too long” we say TIMES UP and you get a c-section. This is the problem with hospital birth: it’s run like a hotel, charging per bed and per hour, instead of letting you labor on your own and at your own pace. And women are told “thank goodness we saved you from your horrible unborn child” when really it was just “you weren’t fast enough and we want to go home.” Now you may not be able to do skin-to-skin with your baby, you may have a harder time breastfeeding, and your recovery is much more difficult.
Think about it: no other mammal on earth lies on their back to give birth. Why? It’s stupid!
I hope you’re starting to think “I have a lot more research to do.” I’ll leave you some links at the bottom to check out. Again this is not a conspiracy, per sé: it’s just the reality of a business trying to profit, and well-meaning women who don’t know any better unless they start to read between the lines.
If you do have to have a hospital birth, do try to go natural. It’s a mental game, trust me, so do some reading. And possibly a class. I’d also highly recommend a doula. She’ll be your coach, advocate, guardian and friend throughout pregnancy and labor.
And, in the end, choose what feels right in your heart. I’ve had friends who had a c-section and hated it, feeling that they were deceived; one of my best friends knew the risks of the epidural (thanks to annoying ole me) and chose the epidural anyway. The fact is, that was her EDUCATED choice. She knew the risks and what-ifs, she was the one in control. And since she was aware of all the statistics, she had an enjoyable birth knowing that it was her decision. Not someone twisting her arm or intimidating her.
birth the second time around
Please do everything in your power to have an educated birth. You owe it to yourself and your unborn child. Birth is a time for empowerment, honesty, support and encouragement. After all, when a baby is born, a mother is born too.
The Business of Being Born (usually on YouTube or Netflix)
More Business of Being Born (usually on YouTube or Netflix)
I have affiliate links listed below – these are books I love and have read many times!