I've been thinking a lot about childbirth. Big shock, considering I'm pregnant and all. Last time, my birth didn't quite go as I had hoped, although it was still wonderful even though I was in labor for almost three days, two of those unmedicated and ended up unable to walk for a week! But even though it wasn't quite what we had in mind, the fact that we studied and prepared really made it a wonderful experience and one I am more than happy to repeat even if it's as tough as it was last time (although, I'll take one of those super easy 4 hour labor, 5 minute push dealies too!) I learned so much about myself, my toughness, how strong my relationship is with mrp. It was the best almost three days of my life. It hurt like a mother and was very very frustrating at times, but nevertheless it was fun in a strange way!
Anyway, I wanted to share a few things that made the experience so good (despite being so abnormally challenging).
First, we took a 12 week Bradley Method child birth class. It was definitely a big time commitment, but it was so worth it. Both mrp and I learned everything about labor and delivery. The Bradley Method is particularly great for athletes because it treats labor and delivery as an athletic event with the dad as the coach! Mrp was a little tentative about birth before the class--we always figured he's be an above the waste dad--but after the classes he was more gung-ho and into childbirth than I was and was right in there helping me and the midwife when the time came. He was incredibly supportive and experienced all of the birth right along with me. It was an amazing thing and one we highly recommend. But seriously, I can't tell you how important it is to know as much as you can about what is normal during labor and delivery. There are things you can do to help you avoid a c-section, that you're more likely able to breastfeed, or whatever else is important to you. The more you know, the more empowered you are. Plus, it's just really interesting to learn about this most amazing of human processes.
The next thing we did that made a huge difference is we hired a doula. Our doula just happened to be our Bradley instructor. She was awesome and totally helped us. It was really important to us to try to have a natural childbirth and to avoid a c-section at the very least. I am certain after my crazy labor I would have ended up with a c-section without her. She helped us know when what was happening was normal and when it wasn't. She helped us know when we could negotiate with the doctors and when we couldn't. Plus, she helped mrp help me--it helped him be confident in how to help me and also to know when I was just uncomfortable and yelling or really mad. Heh! It's hard to know sometimes! It was really invaluable to have her. We will definitely be using her again. E-mail if you want a referral!
Finally we made a birth plan. We knew what we wanted. Like I said, we wanted a natural, unmedicated birth if possible. We wanted to breastfeed exclusively if possible. There were other more specific things we wanted too and we wrote them all in a plan. Here is a reproduction of our birth plan with things that didn't go as hoped in the parentheticals:
We are Salty and Mrp and we are very excited to welcome our first baby into the world. Our hope is that we can put our Bradley training to use and experience a natural childbirth. However, the health and safety of both baby and mom are our top priorities and we are open to doing whatever is necessary to preserve both.
Priorities and Preferences
(: Healthy and happy mom and baby :)
Labor and Delivery
Prefer vaginal birth and no episiotomy--avoid all cutting if possible (got cut. UGH!)
Prefer to labor without pain meds--please do not offer, we will ask if we want them. (We asked)
Prefer to stay mobile and active throughout labor (HAd to be chained to monitor more of the time than I wanted)
Prefer mother-directed pushing
Prefer heplock to iv for mobility (Was way dehydrated so had an iv).
Prefer periodic external fetal monitoring (cordless if available) and would like to avoid internal monitoring if at all possible (had it for a brief time, after got the epidural)
Prefer to nurse baby immediately after birth (Nursed about 45 minutes after birth, but had no problems at all).
Prefer for dad to cut cord AFTER it stops pulsing (Mrp couldn't cut the cord because poor peanut was in the care of the NICU peds immediately after birth).
Prefer to donate cord blood to public bank if possible (not possible on Friday afternoon--lame)
Prefer to delay eye ointment and vitamin K for at least an hour after birth
Prefer NO Hep B vaccine be administered to baby at this time
Prefer to room-in with baby and dad.
Prefer our son NOT be circumcised.
We understand that procedures we would not prefer may become medically necessary. If the need arises, please allow us time to consider our options and ask questions before performing a non-preferred procedure.
Prefer dad be present if possible
Prefer mom is conscious throughout
Prefer to nurse baby immediately after birth
Anyway, I just wanted to share what worked for us. I feel really strongly that we need to educate ourselves and empower ourselves to get the birth experience we want. That doesn't mean we all have to want a natural childbirth or anything like that, but if you have something you prefer out of the experience it's best to understand the process and go into it with your eyes as wide-open as possible. This time I really hope I get a nice, short labor and an unmedicated quick delivery. The odds are that this one will be much easier than the first, which is pretty much the standard for second pregnancies. But, if it isn't easier I'll deal again!