Things have changed quite a bit in the 14 years since I first became a mother. I wasn't made aware of very many options at that point. The LaMaze class I took taught us how to breathe through contractions. I never did use those techniques. I found my own deep breathing worked the best. My labor was short, so I was fortunate enough to not need any pain medication. For the time, my doctor was quite progressive, as well, and I was allowed to roam the halls of the labor and delivery ward throughout my labor even though I was tethered to my IV. I also took a wonderful hot shower and I believe all these things helped my labor go quickly. When it was time to deliver, I was laid in the bed and told to grab my knees and pull them toward my chest. They weren't quite ready for the baby to be born, so I was told to pant so as not to push. What the heck were these people thinking, anyway? I wasn't pushing on purpose, my body was doing it for me. All the panting succeeded in doing was make me light headed and about ready to pass out. Two pushing contractions and one episiotomy later, my beautiful baby girl rushed into the world.
The birth was fairly uneventful and went as smoothly as anyone could hope, but I wasn't satisfied. I didn't like all the intervention. I hated the IV because I could drink my own fluids, thank you; and I disliked the episiotomy even more. But this was what I knew. I had not been told anything different.
By the time baby #2 was on his way, I knew a little more. I had moved states and switched doctors and was in with a group of doctors who were even more progressive. The hospital I delivered at this time (many states away from the original hospital), was very small. I believe I was the only mother giving birth that night and was allowed free rein of the floor. I walked and walked and walked some more. I wasn't even made to be tethered to an IV. This time, they only inserted a tap so that they could use it in an emergency. I drank fluids on my own and stayed well-hydrated without the need for the IV. I spent the last portion of my labor in a labor tub. The water felt wonderful on my contracting tummy. The attending doctor (not the one I had seen throughout my pregnancy) allowed be to deliver in the tub as well. It was a very calm and wonderful experience. My son was serene after the birth and was looking around quietly at all going on around him. We remained in the tub for about 15 minutes after the birth, bonding. My one and only complaint about this type of birth is that bearing down is extremely difficult when your bottom wants to do nothing more than float. This made the pushing a bit trickier. All in all, still a very beautiful birth experience.
During my third pregnancy, I really wanted to use a midwife. My husband was still not quite comfortable with the home birth option and we ended up delivering in yet another hospital. My labor was fast and I was not made to be attached to an IV but I was forced to lay in bed for the entire labor with the exception of using the restroom.
While pregnant, I had become aware that there was a "squat bar" that could be attached to the bed and used to help you squat during delivery so as to have gravity help the birth along. It was amazing. Gravity is a good thing! One pushing contraction and two pushes later, I delivered my largest baby (9 pounds 9 ounces) with not a single problem. The doctor and the nurses weren't ready, however, which caused quite a bit of yelling and rushing to catch my baby in time. They whisked him away from me quite quickly due to meconium in the fluid and forced a tube down his throat while the doctor "cleaned me up". The doctor was not my usual doctor and lacked any friendly bedside manor. As I jumped to the head of the bed because she was being so rough, her only response was "Of course you're going to be sore down there, honey, you just had a baby." Really? I missed it all. Could we please rewind and start over? I thought with the doctor being of the female persuasion, she might have been a bit more understanding. I was wrong.
This only made things easier for me with birth number four, however, since my husband now agreed that he didn't want to use a doctor or hospital this time and agreed we would use a midwife. My midwife was a wonderful. So wonderful in fact, that I used her for both births #4 and #5.
My fourth labor and delivery took place in our bedroom of our home with my husband, one grandma and the midwife in attendance. The midwife was wonderful, helping me through the contractions and massaging my belly. She was there for me the whole time and never told me that I was doing something wrong or that I shouldn't listen to my body. When it came time to push, I opted for a squat stool. I had decided last time that the gravity thing was the best way to go. When I got situated and was ready to push, my labor stalled. I stopped having contractions. This did make me very nervous but the midwife constantly monitored the baby and assured me everything was okay. I climbed into just about every position you can think of to get labor going again. The midwife was diligent the entire time monitoring the baby and adjusting my positions so as to help both me and the baby. When I was finally in a position that pushing my labor forward once more, I was nearly flat on my back in my bed. Not at all what I had envisioned but I did end up delivering a healthy baby girl. I was actually very thankful that I had used a midwife with this birth since I honestly believe that had I been in the hospital, I likely would have ended up with a C-Section.
Birth number 5 was also in my home with the midwife. I used a tub again with this delivery and everything went smoothly. The midwife was once again diligent in monitoring both me and the baby and after a six hour labor, baby number 5 was born under water.
My purpose in writing this article is to illustrate to my readers that there are options out there. Don't be fooled into thinking that the only way to have a baby is in a hospital with a doctor in attendance and your feet up in stirrups. Ask questions. Be your own best advocate and make sure everyone knows what your wishes are. It is best to decide all this before hand, but it is never too late to change your mind.