our wee home

musings by michelle

On giving birth, naturally

People usually have one of two reactions to the idea of natural childbirth:

1.  “You’re crazy!  What are you trying to prove?  Get an epidural.”

2.  “Way to go, mama!  Natural is the only way to go.”

Well, that’s not fair.  There are also the moderates:  “Do whatever is best for you!  Every baby comes into this world differently.”

Most of my life, I was definitely pro-epidural, when thinking about the vague some-day-I’ll-have-a-baby idea of childbirth.  Growing up watching “A Baby Story” on TLC, I definitely didn’t feel like I had anything to prove by not medicating through the experience.  Plus, I was terrified of giving birth.  Over the years, though, my philosophy on health has slowly changed to be in favor of trying natural remedies first, and if that doesn’t work, then turn to western medicine.  I get massages and see an acupuncturist… but I’ll also take antibiotics for a dreaded sinus infection.

So when I got pregnant, I decided that maybe I should be open to the idea of birth being very natural, and if that didn’t work out, I could turn to western medicine.  I looked into birthing classes for Matt and I to attend, and I ended up deciding on HypnoBabies.  Our class met for 6 weeks, 3 hours each week.  It covered a lot of general birth-related information, as well as teaching self-hypnosis techniques for birthing.  Their philosophy is that your expectations for your birthing can influence your actual experience of birthing.  So they use alternate vocabulary to re-set your expectations:  “birthing waves” for contractions, “birthing time” instead of labor, etc.  I won’t go into too much detail describing the class, but rather, I’ll share my thoughts on it now that I’ve given birth.

Did HypnoBabies work for me?  Yes and no.

What I liked about HypnoBabies:

  • I agree that most normal births are not medical in nature.  The U.S. has gone off the deep end in medicalizing (is that a word?) birth, in my opinion.  Many other developed countries have way fewer births in hospitals, with a growing number in birthing/midwifery centers and at home.  And those same countries have much more impressive statistics for healthy births, mamas, and babies.
  • I feel naive for admitting this, but I really appreciated learning that I get to choose what medical care I will receive.  Unless my life is in danger, I will get to decide what, if any, interventions to allow.  What an empowering concept!  Before taking this class, I think I would have just done whatever intervention the doctors/nurses suggested to me.
  • The class included an overview of the most common medical interventions during birth, what they mean, when they may be necessary, etc.  This was so helpful!
  • Creating a birthing plan.  My mentality was not, “this is the way it MUST go!” but rather, “This is ideally what I would like, but I understand things can change.”
  • I learned that I could labor at home, and be more relaxed.  No need to rush to the hospital right away if I don’t want to.
  • Self-hypnosis was a great skill to learn for overall relaxation.  It definitely helped me through the first several hours while I labored at home.  I was really calm and we even took the time to bake some cookies for the nurses at the hospital.  It also helped for the drive to the hospital, and during my intake in the triage center at the hospital.
  • I think Matt and I were as prepared as we could’ve been for what to expect, overall, for first-time parents.

What I did not like about HypnoBabies:

  • Self-hypnosis is the ONLY technique that they teach to relax and deal with the birthing process.  So if you reach a point in your birth that you no longer can do it, you’re screwed.
  • I felt like using their alternate vocabulary was a little silly.
  • The self-hypnosis training and practice was a serious time commitment!  I will admit that I did not practice as much as they suggest.
  • While clearly HypnoBabies works beautifully for some women, it doesn’t work for everyone.  The class focuses so much on the best possible outcome, that it doesn’t prepare you as much for reality.  For example, they only show you successful HypnoBabies birthing videos.  These women are smiling through delivery and as calm as Hindu cows.  As a result, I was completely traumatized and embarrassed by my carnal screaming and writhing during birth.
  • The class set up an expectation that the hospital staff was going to be trying to force me to use medical interventions and arguing with me about my natural birthing plan.  I found this to be completely untrue.  My hospital (Exempla St. Joseph’s in Denver) was absolutely fantastic.  In fact, when (at the very end) I started asking begging for an epidural, they actually kind of stalled a bit.  A nurse later told me, “We just know when someone can do it… and you did!”  They did everything that my birthing plan asked for, and more.  But maybe a lot of other women experience less accommodating nurses and doctors than I did.

I did ask for an epidural, but by that point, I was starting to push… essentially it was too late.  So yes, I did have a 100% natural birth with Norah.  There is certainly part of me that is very grateful for this:  we had no complications, my labor was pretty fast (12 hours from start to birth), Norah is healthy, and my recovery was pretty quick.  But, there is another part of me that regrets having a natural birth.  The pain that I experienced was so all-encompassing that I do not feel like I was present for the birth of my daughter.  I was so in my pain, that I could not feel the joy that I had hoped for when I saw her.  The pictures from that moment show a look of dazed shock on my face.  I did not have the “otherworldly” experience that a lot of women talk about.  I wonder if an epidural would have allowed me to appreciate the beauty of the entire process.  I’ll never know the answer to that — each birth is so very different.

Will I have another natural birth?  I don’t know.  But right now, today, I don’t think I would choose to.  Just being honest, folks.

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May 3, 2012 - Posted by | Parenting | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] haven’t gotten personal on my blog since I wrote about my unmedicated birth experience when Norah was born, or my panic about the impending end of nursing her…  but […]

    Pingback by Mother’s Day, 2013 « our wee home | May 30, 2013 | Reply


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