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This is a guest post by Jennifer Chubb.
Just over 2 weeks ago, I gave birth to my fourth son. It was an amazing experience as it was my first time delivering with a midwife, at a birth center. I had a water birth and was able to catch my own baby. While it was probably my hardest labor, it was definitely my most rewarding. My son weighed in at a whopping 11 lbs., 4 ounces and was 22 inches long!
My third son was 11 lbs and he, while born in a hospital, was also delivered all natural. Needless to say, when I share my babies’ birth stats, I get all sorts of reactions from “Oh my gosh, please tell me you had a C-section” to “Are you nuts?” when I respond that these large babies were born without any pain medicine.
Now, I can understand the shock and awe to an extent. While I am by no means petite, at nearly 5’9”, I am not a huge woman, with my average, non-pregnancy weight being about 140 lbs. However, I think the reaction also stems from the fact that here in America, the state of birth has become one of which natural child birth is held as an “inconvenience” to mainstream medicine. Women are being convinced that their bodies are a failure by their doctors. They fall for fear tactics which convince them they simply can’t do it on their own. I feel sad for women that never get to experience child birth the way God intended it.
I have heard so many horrific birth stories. I will begin with my own. I was twenty-seven years old when I had my first baby. I wasn’t quite the “crunchy girl” I am now, so there was a lot of naivety on my part. And for my lack of research, I will take partial responsibility that my first 3 births were “less than ideal.” I knew nothing about midwives. I thought they were a thing of the past. If only I knew then what I know now.
Anyway, I digress…my son was due July 21, 2004. It was a hot summer and I remember going in for my 39 week check and the doctor told me, “You might want to think about inducing. It’s hot, you are starting to retain fluid, and it may be a big baby.” Of course, I trusted her opinion, after all she was the doctor! So I allowed her to talk me into an induction on July 19 — three days short of my due date. She told me she would start by breaking my water and giving me a suppository that would soften my cervix. If that didn’t work, she would give me pitocin.
That morning, we made our way to the hospital and followed her plan of action. Labor started almost immediately. I had every intention of not getting an epidural, but the combination of the drug and the rupturing of my waters made contractions hard and fast. They lasted about 1.5 minutes with only about 30 seconds to recover. So, I caved and got the epidural. My son was born shortly before 2 pm, healthy at 8 lbs 6 oz. For about a year after that, I had pain at the injection site of the epidural. While it wasn’t the worst birth story ever, I still feel totally robbed of experiencing the birth of my first child they way I was meant to. I feel I was lied to, and taken advantage of because of my ignorance as a first time mom.
My next son was due April 5, 2006. On April 1, I began having regular contractions. While they were not painful, they were about every 3 minutes. Looking back, I now know they were just Braxton Hicks, but at the time, I thought it was the “real deal” because of their regularity. I called my OB and she said that she wanted me to head to the hospital. I get there, and of course, she had given the nurses instructions. They hooked me up to all the monitoring, and wouldn’t you know it, the contractions stopped.
So I told them, “Okay, I am ready to go home.” But the one nurse said, “Well, you are already here, hooked up to all the stuff, you might as well stay and we will induce you, that way you don’t have to come back again. Let’s just get it over with.” Again, I don’t know why, but I caved. And as I look back, I was the only one on the floor that day. I think I was a cure for their boredom! They needed something to do!!
About an hour later, the doctor arrived and broke my water since it “worked so well last time.” And guess what? A big fat nothing! No contractions, nothing but me laying there in my own amniotic fluid, hooked up to an I.V. and fetal monitors. Bring on the pitocin! And that didn’t work for basically the next 12 hours. At one point they had me start walking the floor. They finally “turned it up” and I started contracting hard.
I remember walking past the nurses station and I must have had a look of pain on my face, because she said, “you know honey, they don’t pull teeth without Novocain anymore!” (She knew that despite the pitocin, I wanted to have the baby naturally.) The contractions became so intense that once again, I caved to the epidural. Fifteen hours later, my son was born! FIFTEEN HOURS OF PITOCIN!!!
So, as I am laying there, gazing into the eyes of my beautiful 9 lb. 4 oz. son, minutes after he is born, I am suddenly overcome by a horrifying case of nausea. I scream at my husband to take the baby and then proceed to vomit all over myself. I don’t know if it was the epidural, the pitocin, or a combination of the 2 but I felt so horrible for HOURS after that birth that I couldn’t even enjoy my baby. I vowed that NEVER again would I have a baby with that sort of intervention.
The strange thing was, this still hadn’t outraged me enough to change doctors. Mainstream medicine does such a good job of dodging responsibility that I didn’t even think to be mad at the woman who only showed up to catch my babies. The person who otherwise was giving all the directives of what to do with me, over the phone, to people that were complete strangers to me. So, guess what? When I was pregnant with son number 3, I went back, AGAIN!
My third son was scheduled to arrive September 19, 2007. This time, I had done my research. This time, I felt empowered and I told myself “I am putting my foot down, she will NOT dictate how this baby will enter this world.” I guess that’s the good thing about bad experiences. You learn from them.
So as we neared the end of that pregnancy, I voiced to her that I did not want an induction and that I did not want an epidural during labor. I wrote up an extensive birth plan detailing my desires. She seemed agreeable, until my due date rolled around and still no baby. She asked me what I wanted to do and I told her I still didn’t want an induction. She told me that if I went past 41 weeks, she would have to ask me to find a new doctor. She told me that my placenta would “get old” and no longer feed that baby. She told me that at 41 weeks infant mortality goes up by 50% and by 42 weeks it goes up to 75%. She said she would not risk delivering a dead baby for the sake of my stubbornness. She also told me that I needed to face the reality that my body “just didn’t go into labor on its own.” That was a Thursday.
I told her I would let her break my water if he hadn’t come by the weekend. Well, 40 weeks, plus 5 days later, and there I was back at the hospital for my “induction.” We agreed that she would only break my water. After she did that, labor came on quick. My son was born 3 hours later, completely drug free! It was by far the best I felt after a delivery, and it was my fastest, easiest delivery.
But it didn’t come without some negativity. When I was fully dilated and the doctor showed up, she slapped the bottom of my foot as I was wincing from a contraction and said, “Ha, bet you wish you had that epidural now!!” I could tell she was so annoyed to have to deal with this “crazy woman who didn’t want any drugs.”
Note from Kate: The placenta does not just “get old and not feed the baby.” If the placenta is actually deteriorating, labor will begin and the baby will be born. This happened in my second pregnancy — baby born 10 days early due to deteriorating placenta. There is no way, in an otherwise healthy woman, that her body would hold onto a full-term baby with a deteriorating placenta.
Time to Move On
After my 3rd birth experience I vowed I would never go back to that doctor again. Not only did she really bother me with her snide comments, I started doing my own research and learned that most of what she told me was a lie. I realized it was about her and what was convenient for her that was important. By her convincing me that my body was a failure, it ensured no late night calls for her. It ensured that I wouldn’t mess up her M-F 8-5 schedule.
As I look back, I know that I also need to count my blessings. My babies came out healthy. And with what I know now, I am so grateful that I didn’t have a C-Section. Any one of those births, because of the intervention, could have easily resulted in an emergency Cesarean.
Finally I got it through my thick head that it was time to move on. I started looking around. I learned from a friend about midwifery and she told me about her experiences and so I vowed that if and when I had more kids, I would find a midwife.
Fast forward 4.5 years. When I became pregnant with my fourth son, I found a midwife that I absolutely adore. She was amazing my entire pregnancy. It was so different from my past experiences. I felt completely in charge of my pregnancy, and that she was simply there to encourage me along.
So, when I was ten days late, not once did she pressure me into an induction, but rather left it up to me, simply giving me some options. I finally experienced going into labor on my own (contrary to what I had been told previous, my body DID know how to have babies!!!), and yes, it started in the middle of the night! So from 2:30 am until 7:55 am, she and her amazing nurse were with me, encouraging me all the way. And this was my hardest labor.
I got to a point that I looked at her and told her I didn’t think I could do it, and said something to the effect of, “I am glad you are saying that, because when mom’s say that, it means your at the end!” She never got irritated or impatient and she had this amazing calming effect on both me, my husband, and my very nervous sister! She made over my baby like he was the cutest baby she ever delivered. With my last doctor, I just felt my babies were a side effect to the process. She barely even looked at them. I wish all my birth stories ended like this, but like I said before, you learn from those bad experiences.
Lies, Lies and More Lies
Some of the other stories I have heard have ranged from almost humorous to downright tragic. I know of one mom who was told that because her baby hadn’t dropped into the birth canal at 39 weeks, she would probably not be able to deliver naturally and that she should just go ahead and schedule a C-section. I know of other women who were told that their birth canal was too small so they should have C-sections. Really? I mean, how does a doctor make that judgment without extensive testing and measurements of both mom and baby?
And I know countless others who were pressured into a C-section after the induction failed. And still others that were talked into a C-Section simply because labor was “taking too long.” I know of healthy, strong women, who have asked for VBACs, and their doctors refuse, saying it’s “too risky,” yet I know many others that have gone on to have safe, successful VBACs.
The reasons for inductions have been about as ridiculous as the ones I was given. But what floors me the most is when moms opt to induce at 38 or 39 weeks because they simply don’t want to be pregnant anymore. Seriously, anyone who goes into pregnancy thinking it is going to be easy should maybe reconsider. It amazes me that women will risk their own child’s well being for the sake of comfort and that doctors will go right along with them and fulfill these selfish desires! Gestation is 40 weeks average FOR A REASON!!!! This practice got so out of control here in Nebraska that now it is a state law that doctors cannot induce before 39 weeks unless there is a compelling medical reason.
Debunking the Myths
I know some may read this and feel bad because they don’t have a birth story like mine to share. Please know I did not write all this to make anyone feel guilty or judged because of their choices and experiences. And I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who chooses to have an epidural. The choice to have one is as much theirs as my choice is to not. And believe me, I had two, there’s definitely an upside to having one, as childbirth is the most painful thing a human will probably ever endure. My point in all this is to spread awareness to the fact that we have gone so much the other way, that women are made to feel bad if they choose to have their babies on THEIR terms. The lies that we get told border on criminal. I am glad that my midwife and my own research opened my eyes to the truth.
For instance, I did not know that the stress hormone actually suppresses oxytocin, the labor hormone, and thus has the potential to make a woman’s labor stall. You hear countless times of women getting to the hospital only to have labor abruptly stop. One school of thought, as my midwife explained to me, is that the environment of the hospital raises mom’s stress level with things like the monitoring equipment, being restricted to the bed, demeanor of staff (as was my experience) etc.
Another myth is that your baby will die or suffer if you are “overdue.” I was told that my placenta would start to calcify and dry up and my baby would starve if I went too far overdue. The fact is, placenta starts to “dry up” around 34-36 weeks gestation. Furthermore, when the placenta stops functioning, this can trigger labor. That’s what makes our bodies so amazing!!!!
My favorite: “You are not dilated, the baby is not engaged in your pelvis, so you will probably need a C-Section.” The fact is, a large amount of babies don’t actually engage until hard labor. Many women don’t even dilate at all until hard labor starts. Dilation, effacement, and engagement really mean nothing until you’re in labor. I hung around 3 centimeters and 50% effacement for about a month with my first two babies!
Make it YOUR Story!
The most important thing is that your baby comes into this world safely. If any of the scenarios I have mentioned reflect your experiences, I am sorry that you were robbed of the beautiful experience of natural childbirth. My goal is to spread awareness so that maybe your next birth will be a better experience. Or that maybe you can educate someone else who is embarking on the adventure of a first pregnancy.
Please know that I don’t want this to be perceived as a slam on all OBGYNs. There are good doctors who truly care about moms and babies. Sadly, however, it seems they are an exception to the rule. And please, make no mistake, I know there are situations that are true emergencies and the C-Section is a last, but necessary resort. But again, truly NECESSARY C-sections, that are not the result of an intervention gone bad, are few and far between as well. Every mom has a right to a safe, natural birth on HER terms. I hope this encourages women to take charge of their pregnancy and subsequent birth. YOU are the author of YOUR birth story!
Have you experienced natural child birth, or a midwife or OB who was supportive of your choices?
Stay at home home mom to four boys, and am also helping to raise 2 stepdaughters. I am a former street cop and am now in my 4th year of homeschooling my kids. We have been “alternative” since I was pregnant with my first son. We did a lot of research on vaccines and such while I was pregnant, and both mine and my husbands experiences investigating SIDS deaths helped us to look deeper into the vaccine issue. We came to the decision not to vaccinate, and then all the other facets of “alternative living” sort of followed suit. I decided to homeschool, not just for the vaccine issue. As a cop, I saw how public education was beyond lacking in this country, and not only that, kids were being severely indoctrinated by the government through public education and I swore my children would NEVER set foot in a public school. We couldn’t afford private school, so homeschooling was our only choice. I am passionate about natural health and have become outspoken about how the government and western medicine have become far too intrusive in people’s lives.