Labor of Love

Saturday, March 27, 2010

We recently had our "Bradley Class Reunion". "Bradley" is the birthing method Josh and I chose to follow. It is a 12 week program that walks you through more-than-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-birth and preparing for baby. It was immensely helpful and I would highly recommend it to any expectant mothers out there looking to get ridiculously overly-educated about what the heck is going on with their body and their babies. We particularly chose it for its involvement of the father. In fact, the book that supplements the class is called "Husband Coached Childbirth"...and they aren't kidding. Just as Josh how exhausting it is to support someone through labor - I can attest to his superb skills, along with the relaxation techniques I learned, that kept me going through my nearly 15 hour unmedicated period of labor, with contractions coming every 2-4 minutes straight. (Roar, I am woman).

Ironically, though we spent hours and hours preparing for a natural labor, the only two students who could make the reunion ended up with c-sections! The class was small - only 3 couples - and 2 of us ended up in the OR, much to our chagrin. The other couple was able to have a homebirth with a midwife, so kudos to them and many congrats on the use of their Bradley-learned-skills put into practice! I was sad they weren't able to make the reunion, and our instructor was sick and unable to come as, us c-sec gals got to finally catch up and compare well as meet each other's precious little bundles (now, nearly 5 months old!) It was awesome to see each other, now as parents, and literally look at the fruit of our labors laughing and playing with each other.

Now, here's what I have to say about childbirth. No, no, I'm not gonna get all graphic on you - no need for panic. What I mean is, in my journey to find the best method of preparation for bearing a child, I can pretty much sum up in this: educate yourself on everything, expect the unexpected, and enjoy the experience. I think these are all valid things you can actually choose to do...the rest is up to God, your baby, your body, and your doctors which are entirely unpredictable until you are in the midst of it.

It seems that there has never been a more open time for options in the world of birthing than there is today. There are women that schedule their c-sections months in advance to accomodate their (or their doctor's) schedules...and there are women having natural water births in the middle of their living rooms. There used to be no choices at all - the doctor would just tell you what to do. Then, "to get the epidural or not to get the epidural" was the question. Now, women are taking the decision-making into their own hands, dictating a "birthplan" to their doctors, midwives, doulas, and husbands as the authority over their own birth experience.

A lot of good has come from this movement. I'm a big supporter in educating yourself and becoming your own health advocate. I think there is a lot of wisdom in listening to your body and learning about what it is trying to tell you. I also think, however, that I'm no expert when it comes to medical emergencies. I know that birth is not a typical "emergency" and there is often no cause for alarm or stress...but, I also know that I would have had more stress if I stayed in an environment that was not equipped for the unknown. This is certainly a decision each woman has to make for herself (with great input from a supportive husband, I might add)! Simply put - there is no "one right way" to have a baby. That's just the truth.

I am all for the natural birth experience. I wanted it, I prepared for it, and ultimately I had it for several hours. I'm also thankful for the time we spent educating ourselves on the various scenarios that might arise during labor. It saddens me that several mothers I've talked to look back on their birth experience with regret or disappointment instead of the wonder and joy they hoped for. I've had several different reactions to my having a c-section, ranging from "they are the best way to go" to "it's too bad you gave in" to looks of horror or pity. I haven't been surprised. The road to childbirth is paved with all kinds of criticism. It truly can bring out the best and the worst in some women. I tried to remain level headed throughout my pregnancy - always hoping and preparing for the best scenario while educating myself about the various crossroads of decisions I might (and did) have to face.

After 15 hours of unmedicated labor, 4 more hours of labor on pitocin with an epidural, and then a c-section after failure to progress...I couldn't be happier with my 3-versions-of-labor-in-one experience. Here's the main reason why: I decided long before my water broke that it was going to be a beautiful day.

Did every little step along the way go perfectly as I would have liked? Of course not. And I wouldn't have had it any other way. I embraced the drama from the beginning - from the excitement of the water breaking just like it does in the movies (turns out sometimes it DOES happen that way!) to the tearful and prayerful decision to go forth with the all led to the perfect ending: meeting my daughter.

If I had one piece of unsolicited advice to pass along to future mothers, it's to remember this: As long as you go home with a healthy baby that's yours...your birth was a success!

I kept that mindset from the begining and handed the rest of the stress (which I had no control over anyway) to God. He knew exactly how Matilda was supposed to arrive, and He was with us every single step of the way as we approached 5:03pm on that Sunday evening we finally met her. Now, who could ask for a better day than that?

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