Sunday, September 13, 2009

In honor of LABOR DAY this month

Throughout my pregnancy I would often hear women say how there’s no need to be a “hero” when it comes to giving birth, or the famous line that they don’t give out any trophies; babies aren’t any cuter, etc. for having one naturally (aka drug free), but I have yet to meet any woman who elected to have a natural birth simply for the recognition. The reason I hear of women electing for a natural birth is because it’s what they believe in. I must also add that I consider every woman who carries a baby for 9 months and gives birth remarkable- regardless of the procedure (epidural, getting induced, c-section), because let’s face it – it takes an extreme amount of courage to go through any of that and therefore no women should be judged by her birth experience.

What I came to find out during my pregnancy is how foreign the idea of natural childbirth has now become. I could handle people calling my husband and I crazy for not wanting to know our baby’s gender until birth, but as soon as they would ask about the kind of delivery I planned on having, and I responded with “au natural,” I would immediately hear remarks like “well, you just don’t know what you’re in for” or, “good luck with THAT!” Even our dr. (whom I made sure had performed a high number of natural childbirths before we selected her) was pushing us along after wk 36 to hurry up and have the baby! When I was still pregnant at the end of week 39 (my due date) she made me feel like something was wrong with me, and never once reassured me that as a first time mom, going 7-10 days past our due date is COMPLETELY NORMAL. She instead told us that we would need to schedule an induction by the end of next week. It was only after my husband and I blankly stared back at her that she then offered us our “other option” of going until the END of week 41 (women are technically not considered overdue until the end of wk 42 by the way) with a few extra tests to ensure baby continues to carry a healthy heart rate and amniotic fluids are where they should be.

Even though I liked our second option much more than the first, I was still feeling a bit anxious. This wasn’t helped with repeated calls/emails/texts from our friends and family members to see if we had the baby yet (I know they meant well, but that part was really hard since I am such the planner and wanted nothing more that to have that baby in my arms and its darling announcements on order). I even tried singing to the baby “Happy Birthday” on certain days, drinking red raspberry leaf tea (said to tone the uterus), eating foods with oregano, basil, and roasted red pepper (all said to stimulate labor), pineapple (said to soften the cervix), and did LOTS and LOTS of walking and swimming!

While I’m not sure if any of these methods made any difference, I do recall considering for a brief moment to just give in and “schedule its arrival.” Since I was still not 100% sold on this, I went back to square one and did some more research on elective induced labor and proof that a healthy pregnant woman can successfully carry a baby until full term (a full 42 wks). I figured we are given 9 months for a reason, and I would much rather put in the time to educate myself than be caught in a less than ideal birthing situation.

One book that I found quite interesting is: The Thinking Women’s Guide To a Better Birth by Henci Goer. Here’s one quote that I think best captures the essence of her philosophy: “Obstetricians are influenced by the broader culture to believe that technology is superior to nature and machines are more reliable than people. This explains why not intervening has the burden of proving itself rather than the other way around.”

Now I’m not saying that I think that all medical assistance is bad and that we shouldn’t listen to our dr.’s because I of course understand that certain circumstances call for different protocols, but I do think that there’s a lot of unnecessary medical intervention/false worry going on with women who are COMPLETELY HEALTHY. With that said, my husband and I still felt safest by going through a hospital, just with a bit more caution to their “routine practices.” As Goer’s book states, a lot of the reason why so many dr.’s heavily influence induced labor by wk 41 is because the cost of THEIR practitioner’s insurance goes up after then. Goer also points out that hospitals have to maintain staff anesthesiologists around the clock for obstetric emergencies and in order for these doctors to make what they consider an adequate income, the hospital has to maintain something like an 80% epidural rate. After reading this I knew we had to REALLY SPEAK UP for what we wanted because I refused to be just another number!

As it turned out, all of our waiting and stronghold in our beliefs for a natural arrival and delivery really paid off. On a bright and sunny August day (8 days past our due date) I experienced an extremely empowering, satisfying, and naturally safe birth to a completely healthy 8 lb. baby boy. Yes, he arrived more than a week past his due date, but I refuse to call him late because according to him- he was right on time! He also wasn’t abnormally large, and when my water broke, it was completely clear- no meconium or any trace of any of the other reasons they try to scare women with to get them to agree to be induced. I also know that I had the BEST LABOR COACH ever with my husband, Bart. He kept me going strong and when I looked into his eyes, really deep into his eyes, I knew he was right there with me- I mean really there. That was HUGE! Plus, he knows how to give really good massages. J Our nurse commented that she wished her husband was that good and that we should both teach Lamaze classes!

I also experienced the cloud-9 motherly euphoria that you hear so much about that happens the minute you hold your baby for the first time….THAT IS SO TRUE! So know that regardless of the after-birth aches and pains, the rush of endorphins and adrenaline (our bodies natural drugs) really do their part in making you forget about all of the pain. After this birth, I remember melting away into a blissful happiness of accomplishment and relief.

I hope that more women/couples take part in the proper preparation to fully consider all of their choices throughout pregnancy and labor and are not afraid to ASK THEIR DR. LOTS OF QUESTIONS because the election for medical intervention is a slippery slope. I know that it was because of my good health that I was afforded a lot more choices with my birth, but I also did A LOT OF RESEARCH to gain confidence in how a woman’s body is made to do this, as well as outweigh all of the pros/cons associated with various drugs and tests.

May more of us be THINKING WOMEN and never be afraid to TRUST IN OUR AMAZING BODIES. After all, as Korte and Scaer once said, “If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.”


  1. Kate, I loved this post! I completely agree with you (even though there is no way I was going to go natural!) and really wanted Brayden to come on his own time, but it wasn't to be. I am so glad your labor/birth experience was wonderful, and that your sweet hubby was so supportive!

  2. Kate, your dad and I are very proud of you and Barton. People have babies everyday but the positive and energetic approach you both took to prepare for your baby’s birth is what made all of the difference in your experience. You both recognized early on that caring for each other more than yourself is the key to your life together and this commitment made your birthing event all that we hoped it would be for you.

    Of course mothers have the ability to give birth naturally, but I think the women you surround yourself with in life very often make all the difference in how you choose to approach the preparation for birth. Your point of RESEARCH is well taken because "knowledge is power." When you are well informed you can make solid decisions based on what you have learned. Often you hear how important it is to get rid of pain. But pain is a form of information and if you block pain it’s like saying you don’t want to know what your body is trying to tell you. Pain during childbirth is information on how to help your baby. I know that pain medication is an excellent solution when the mother is extremely tired but if you have a choice you can avoid all the restrictions of medication. You can walk around right up until the baby comes…and right after the baby arrives. This ability to MOVE aids in your recovery and helps your baby to adapt rather quickly to their new environment. There are so many reasons to consider natural childbirth and the opportunity should not be dismissed lightly.

    That being said... I agree with you that no one way is the best way and that we should not judge someone on their choice.

    I do believe it is most important to be informed and with that knowledge you can create a very supportive environment for you and your baby.

    I like that the title of your recommended book is geared towards Thinking Women. Whether pregnant or is very important to always choose to be a thinking woman. To passively accept what someone else has dictated without thinking is like handing the keys to your car over to someone when you are perfectly capablie of driving yourself. This doesn't mean that you can't ever be a willing passenger...just a reminder to realize your thoughtful choices play a huge part in obtaining your preferred outcomes. Thanks for giving us such introspective options and creative ways to respond to the very important issues facing women today.

    Your description of what the birthing process has meant to you and your family is very well stated and shows what can be accomplished with positive thinking, a little planning and a lot of love! Enjoy your little one as much as we enjoy you!

  3. It's so great to hear that you had such a positive birthing experience and that you stuck to your guns. Good for you! I can't wait to see more pics of your darling Benjamin. Oh by the way, I have your package almost ready to go. The stores here have the worst selection of baby cards ever and if you remember, I am not really the crafty type so I am still searching :)...Hopefully I'll get it off before his 1st birthday!