Ever since I squeezed out my first baby in 2003, I’ve had a slightly macabre fascination with all things labor and birth. I’ve read countless stories, watched many a Youtube video (I highly recommend this as entertainment) and of course rehashed vagina horror stories with anyone that has one. I’m pretty sure I’ve scared the crap out of a couple child-free family members and possibly beaten the desire to reproduce clean out of them.
Birth is certainly a very personal thing. We all have our expectations and desires for how we think the process should go. (Don’t feel embarrassed. I had the two page, double spaced and typed birth plan, too) Some of us are sorely disappointed when it’s all over and some of us try to remain stoic and realize that in the end if we’re alive and the baby’s alive, wasn’t it a rousing success?
There’s a first time for everything
When I learned I was pregnant the first time, I was in my pre-crunchy era, but still would generally seek out the most natural and least touchy-feely path to any medical procedure. I immediately began researching birth centers and midwives because I was pretty sure I wanted to have the most natural birth possible. I had heard the stories about rogue epidurals and episiotomies unwittingly causing one large exit point in the rear and I was just not interested in any of that. I’m not afraid of needles or doctors, I just really don’t like being fiddled with.
My husband and I debated and ultimately decided on a regular hospital birth. Dave wasn’t fully comfortable with the unassisted route and I was young and insecure and wasn’t willing to fight for it.
I think I recognized the necessity for being yielding early on in the whole process because birth is so unpredictable. I felt that I didn’t really have control over much so I had to trust my doctor and say my prayers. I think the benefit was that I studied and educated myself about birth, was aware of the things that could go wrong and how things should go in a perfect scenario. I was prepared for the worst, but expecting the best. I understood the process and was prepared mentally for the challenge.
A blessed epidural, three hours of pushing and a 3rd degree tear later, I gave birth to my first beautiful baby girl. Hailey’s birth might have been what some would call a disaster. Looking back on it now, after three more births and studying many others, I realize it was slightly hellish! By some miracle I had a nurse who was more like a midwife. She literally kicked the doctor out and shut the door. I firmly believe she was the difference between a vaginal birth and a C-section for me.
Later that night after a giant hamburger and about three thousand kisses, I nodded off peacefully with my new gift in her little plastic baby bed. I had refused any pain medicine because I felt like a million bucks. The hard part was over, right? Worst mistake ever. If I can give you one piece of advice to remember – epidurals take hours to completely wear off as do the endorphins produced during the labor and birth process.
About 3am, I awoke feeling like I had been run over by a train full of anvils. My vagina was three times its normal size and I could barely move. I willingly and sheepishly accepted painmeds and spent the rest of the night with an ice pack on my lady-junk.
My second birth was a relative cake walk. We never discussed anything but a hospital birth at the same hospital because it was familiar and close by. I went into labor one day before my due-date and was eight centimeters dilated when we sauntered into the hospital. I insisted on an epidural even though the nurse said there may not be time.
I was fully expecting the three horrible hours of pushing and a mutilated vagina, so there was no way in heck I was going into that pony show un-medicated. (read my stance on epidurals here) The lovely epidural man came by to visit me with his 25 inch needle after which I proceeded to watch my second daughter nearly fall out on the table after two or three good pushes.
Third times a charm?
When I found out I was pregnant for a third time we had moved to a very rural area where I found a new OB/GYN whom I liked a lot. Our insurance didn’t cover midwives at that time, so we planned another hospital birth. I took a tour of the hospital and was thrilled to find that they had a new state of the art labor and delivery floor. They had large rooms where labor and delivery all happened in one place and I was allowed to have a cheering section full of people if I wanted it. I had kind of hoped for in-room birthing tubs, but no such luck. Growing in my
quest for natural health and after really considering my last birth and how far I made it on my own (into transition phase with relatively low pain) I did decide that I would make a commitment to myself to go epidural free this time. Oh, the best laid plans…
At 33 weeks, I went in for a doctor visit. I wasn’t feeling well and had super high blood pressure. After a night in the hospital, I was told I had pre-eclampsia and would not be leaving the hospital until I delivered. I spent 3 nerve wracking weeks in the hospital until I was induced after much coaxing at 36 weeks.
I will say, even though I missed my husband and kids, I thoroughly enjoyed my quiet and restful stay at the hospital. The place was a like a hotel! (albeit a very dry and smelly one where they took blood at 4am every morning) They had a “room-service-esque” food system where you called and ordered anything you wanted and it would be promptly delivered. OMG. I laid around and ate chocolate cake and pot roast till my eyes bulged.
Having never been induced before, I was a wreck the morning of D-Day. Interestingly enough, I ended up deciding to get the dang epidural because of the catheter. Ridiculous, I know. I had heard that Pitocin contractions were way worse than natural ones but the stupid contractions were nothing compared to the atrocious catheter. I don’t know if it was inserted wrong or what sort of medical malpractice was going on, but that thing killed! It burned, it pulsated, it stung. It was horrendous and felt like razor blades were being shoved into my bladder. Again, the glorious epidural-giver came and I felt better than I had in about nine months.
My third daughter made her way into the world with barely a push. The doctor said, and I quote, “Excellent push. Good effort! Here she comes!” I hadn’t done anything but smile and out she slid. She breathed on her own and was 6 pounds 14 ounces of pure deliciousness.
Last Ditch Effort
Now, good ole’ number four. Much further into my crunchiness, I began looking for a midwife as soon as I found out about number four. We had drastically changed our diet and lifestyle in the preceding two years and I was finally ready for my beautiful and mystical natural birth! We interviewed midwives and birthing centers and found one we loved and were ready to dive in. I was picturing my magnificent and life-changing, un-medicated water birth.
I could already imagine the uninhibited joy and tears I would shed when I birthed my first baby naturally and unassisted while unicorns hovered in the background. That was until we found out that through the use of some ambiguous semantics our insurance didn’t really cover midwives. They would cover a midwife as an assistant in a hospital but not a freelance midwife in a free-standing birth center. Arrgghh.
We decided to go back to the hospital. Again. If we paid for the midwife out of pocket, then had to end up with a hospital birth anyway (which was a high likelihood since I was considered a “high-risk” pregnancy because of my previous pre-eclamptic pregnancy) we would end up paying for two births and only one baby. In the end, after much thought and prayer, we decided to go with my doctor who I really liked and the hospital.
I ended up being induced again at 37 weeks from high blood pressure at my doctor visit. I was officially diagnosed as pregnancy hypertensive this time, because of the absence of all other symptoms of pre-eclampsia. It was basically a carbon copy of my third birth, minus the hellacious catheter and three week hospital stay. I counted my blessings and was glad that I was able to stay free of the hospital until birth that time.
So you’re probably wondering what my reason is for sharing all this personal information about my genitals, no? It’s simply that my heart goes out to all the women who yearn for a
certain kind of birth and don’t get it. They feel immense guilt and sadness because they feel they didn’t give birth the “right way”. I’m a firm believer that there is no “right way”.
All you can do is educate yourself, pray, meditate, cast spells or whatever your beliefs dictate and make sure you know what’s supposed to happen and how you want the thing to go down. Research the benefits and the risks to everything involved and decide what you’re willing to do or not do. Know the process, watch Youtube videos, read stories of all types and then go into it confidently and with a flexible vibe.
Orgasmic Birth, anyone?
I’ve read the stories – the natural births with women squatting in a creek, surrounded by nature whilst wearing a crystal necklace and eating a granola bar (perhaps mid-orgasm?). I know some of us dream of that. I know there are those who would prefer to time-warp to the 1800s to a doctor who would knock you out with chloroform so you wake up hours later with no memory of the birth. Maybe you just want a doctor around so you can get the epidural – if you want it. It’s all good, ladies.
What we’re shooting for is a birthed baby, not a Best Birthist Award. Own your birth, tell others what you wish had been different and what was done right. Don’t feel less than or guilty. Go into it believing if you leave with a baby and a va-jay-jay at least partially intact, you’ve won the battle. Besides, there’s always next time, right?
If you’re nosy and obsessed with birth like me, feel free to check out detailed and genital filled accounts of all four of my births here. Hailey, Hannah, Hope and Harleigh. (links coming soon – check back later)
Was your birth what you had wished for? Did things go right or horribly wrong? Give us a comment below and share your vagina story. Come on, you know you want to…
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