April 22, 2010

The Best Way to Birth....?

I was reading one of my favorite blogs recently, and it brought back a lot of emotions and feelings that I have about Kenadie's birth and just the whole birth process in general. 
Kenadie's arrival was miraculous and wonderful.
In the end, I was extremely blessed with a healthy and (in my biased opinion) beautiful baby girl.
However, Kenadie's birth did not happen how I had planned, prepared, and pictured it to be.
And sometimes I still have a hard time with it. 

My mom delivered all her babies without any drugs and had 6 out of 7 of us at home.
Her example rubbed off on me and growing up, I had always planned to have my babies the same way.
An epidural was never an option.
I have always strongly believed that MOST (because I KNOW medical complications make it impossible for some) women can labor "naturally" (I really don't like that term, by the way).
I had THE BEST "Labor and Delivery" (or L&D) professor in nursing school who, with her expansive knowledge and experience as an RN and midwife, only solidified my resolve that I would have my babies without the use of any drugs.
There are a number of health benefits to mother and baby to have an unmedicated childbirth.
There are a number of emotional and physical benefits as well.
To me, it just seemed to be the best way to birth.

During my two L&D internships, I loved assisting my patients through their unmedicated births and learned so many different techniques to deal with pain and have a "natural" (I think that's a really weird term) childbirth.
I've witnessed and assisted in water births, deliveries in bed, deliveries over a birthing stool, you name it, I got to see it.  And I felt prepared to be able to do it, too.

When I was pregnant, I read a lot of books about childbirth: how to prepare, how to practice relaxing,  how to involve the daddy.
I had an amazing and supportive OB: Dr. Griffiths (for any of you in the Minneapolis area).  Out of any OB I've ever met or worked with, he is the BEST.  He is very open to all different ways in which his patients desire to give birth and he is very involved throughout labor.  (He even does water births!) He and his wife (also an OB) had once spoken of how neat it would be if they could have their own little practice and deliver babies at home.  And he delivers ALL of his own patients.  He is any pregnant momma's dream, really.

So with my mom's history of unmedicated births, the knowledge I gained through nursing school, my extra research and practice, and my awesome doctor, I was ready!
Then nearly a week before Kenadie was born, I started having regular contractions: 3-5 minutes apart and strong enough that I had to stop, close my eyes, focus on relaxing, and breathe through them.
I went on a walk and they got stronger.
After a full day of this, I called my OB (I had his personal pager # because he's cool like that).  I had already been dilated to a 3 and 80% effaced, so he told me to go to the hospital.  Yipee!  But after an hour at the hospital, I discovered that my contractions were not making me dilate any further and I was sent home.
Finally at 2am, my contractions died down enough that I could get to sleep.  Then by noon the next day they had started up again and were STRONG, frequent, lasted all day, and died down again in the middle of the night.  This cycle lasted for 5 days.
I went for long walks, ate spicy food, did about anything I could think of to make my contractions stay, but no dice.
On the 5th night, my contractions stayed and got a whole lot stronger (I was elated!). 
So all evening and all night, I focused on relaxing, I went for a walk, I did some laundry, I ate some watermelon, I watched "Confessions of a Shopaholic" inbetween contractions, I took a warm bath and relaxed in the warm water.

By 7:30am I felt like I MUST be getting close because the pain was quite intense.
I called my OB.  I had to hand the phone to my husband because my contractions were too close and strong to hold a conversation.  
We headed to the hospital.
No progress.  (Still at a 3.)
I rocked back and forth on the birthing ball.
We had aromatherapy in the room, soft music playing in the background, and the lights turned down low.
Garrett (a massage therapist) hit some pressure points to optimize my contractions. 
After another hour, no progress and a threat to send me home.
I wanted to cry...maybe I did.
My sweet doctor came in the room and reassured me that I would have my baby that day.
He said that I was indeed in labor (and may have been for quite some time)
but that my body was having a hard time doing what it was supposed to and maybe if my water broke, it would kick into gear and I'd begin to dilate more.
An hour after my water broke: no progress.  And Kenadie, while head down, was a little twisty and not in the ideal position to come out.
He repositioned her.  She went right back into the same position.
As a nurse I knew that with such strong contractions and a cervix that refused to open, my baby would start to get to stressed, the heart beat may begin to drop, and a c-section may end up being the result.  (I have seen emergency c-sections so many times for this reason.)
All my efforts, practice, and preparation did not do what it should have.
5 days of frequent contractions and 14 hours of labor had done nothing.
I was very tired.
I felt like I had failed.
I got an epidural and immediately went into lala land, floating on white, fluffy clouds (oh, how I loved that epidural!).
A few hours later, I was dilated to a 9!
And hour later, fully dilated and effaced!
Then my epidural started to wear off and my little pain button (to give myself an extra shot of the good stuff) did not help.
I was hurting.
And then I pushed for over 1 1/2 hours while my doctor repeatedly repositioned Kenadie's head and she repeatedly moved it back (see?! A stubborn little sass!).
I thought I might die.
But Kenners finally decided to grace us with her presence and I was soooooo happy (even though she looked like a little Quasimoto with the large, bubbly hematoma on her head from coming out all crooked and twisty!).
I was a little saddened that the whole experience didn't go as I had always hoped, but I was so wrapped up in my new little bundle that I pushed it out of my mind and only allowed myself to feel complete joy and love.

Within the past few months, three of my sisters-in-law have had precious little babies: one delivered at home, and two delivered in a birthing center.  All three delivered without any pain meds.
They are such strong and wonderful women and I love them all to pieces. 
I am so proud of them and so happy that they were able to have that experience.
They really amaze me.

My extreme happiness over my precious new niece and nephews has also kicked up a bit of that old sadness that I wasn't able to have a similar experience for Kenadie's birth.
I know it shouldn't matter much, because all that matters is that these precious babies get to us healthy and happy.
However, I have started to stew over my failed unmedicated labor.
What went wrong?
Did I not practice my relaxation techniques all the stinkin' time?!  Did I not take that raspberry tea religiously?
  Did I not use different positions to help the labor along and help Kenadie rotate into the correct position?
Why didn't I have a 3 hour labor?  Or even a 12 hour labor for that matter!
Why didn't my body do what is was supposed to do?
Was I a wimp?  Did I give up too soon?  Did I do something wrong?

Then, this morning, I was reading this post on one of my favorite blogs, and I suddenly felt like I had a friend.
Sometimes, not matter how we prepare and plan, Mother Nature just does not agree.
It isn't our fault
and those are the moments when we should thank our lucky stars for modern medicine.
My sister has modern medicine to thank because she would have been the woman to die in childbirth 100 years ago without a c-section.
And Garrett has suggested that without modern medicine, Kenadie's delivery may have been much, much worse.
So even though things didn't go as planned, I am grateful that I have my healthy baby girl without any complications.
But I still long to have the experience that my mom had, that my patients had, that my sisters-in-law had.

I will try again next time (I have finally forgotten how wretched pregnancy was just enough to decide I could do it again someday!) and hope that my body cooperates for my next labor, though I am a little nervous that the same thing may happen.
Days of kill-me-now contractions, 20+ hours of labor,  and 100 minutes of pushing.
Honestly, it was zero fun.  Borderline torture, maybe.

In my conflict of wanting something and not knowing if I'll "get it" next time (or ever?)
I have only found sanity in the following conclusion:
though there is nothing wrong with me wanting to have an unmedicated birth,
maybe I need to just let go of the notion that it is "the best" or "only" way to birth and be okay with whatever may transpire as long as I am able to have healthy babies.

Perhaps the "best way" to birth is to just hold your little baby at the end, hear her strong, raspy cry, and shed tears yourself because she is finally here....whether it is in your bedroom at home or on an operating table after a c-section.


Tina said...

I literally just got done reading CJane's last post...fascinating!? Just remember, there will surely be a next time for you. You can be like Cjane...you can have the hospital experience the first time, and the second time (when you're body knows what it's doing), you can give birth at home, in a tub. :) You crazy hippies!? :) jk!!

Kristy said...

I've had to come to grips with having a c-section with Jake, too, but, I think that in the end all that matters is that the baby is here safely, like you said. It's a blessing that modern medicine can help us through complications even if it isn't how we pictured it.

Ellis family said...

Holly good post.
I too think that there is too much emphasis on what is the "right" way to give birth. The fact is, there is not.
The most important thing is that no matter how our babies come into the world they are healthy. It took me awhile to get over the fact I didn't even get to have a vaginal birth. Cause I'll be honest I was so down with the drugs! I struggled with the fact I didn't get to hold my babies the minute they where born. Nurse right away.
But as I prepared to have Brooke I realized that I had to make the most of what I was given. Even though I may not have had an Ideal birthing situation, it doesn't take away from the miracle of bringing a life into this world. That is the miracle and that is what we should focus on. Not how it happens.

Melissa Tate said...

I LOVE your post!! I agreed with everything you said and couldn't stop reading! You're right about all of it...it doesn't matter how much we prepare, mother nature has it's own mind. But luckily you did prepare, so you at least could look back and say that you tried everything you could to go "natural." Great job Holly! You're a great mom!!

Holly June said...

Thanks for the nice comments, everyone! I had been wanting to get these feelings out on a post but had hesitated because I didn't want anyone from either camp of birthing ideas to be offended. I'm glad that my jumble of thoughts came out somewhat understandable and relatable. :)

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