Friday, March 4, 2011

To Birth or Not to Birth?

There are two types of women in the world: Those who have been through the torturous, unfathomable pains of childbirth and those who remain in blissful ignorance.  Currently, I am a member of the latter group and am absolutely terrified of my initiation ritual, desperately trying to bide my time.  Although I have read scores of books and articles, asked numerous questions to my inducted friends, and have tried to garner as much information on the planet about the process, I cannot truly know what childbirth will entail until I experience it firsthand.

As I remain on bed rest, I can't peel my eyes away from the baby shows on TLC, in which the newbie mothers all appear to have vastly different experiences.  I wonder: Will I be the hysterical, screaming woman, whose eyes threaten to bulge out of their sockets? Will I be the calm, ethereal woman who can practice ritualized breathing, meditation, and an I-am-on-the -beach-not-in-the-most-excruciating-pain-of-my life self-guided imagery?  Or, will I be the woman who self-righteously denies all drugs until the pain becomes so intolerable that she is screaming for the maximum legal limit??  My husband thinks that I will be a member of group #3, but his theory is quite unsubstantiated, as he has never before been a spectator in delivery-room sports (he also used to think that Baby J would simply just emerge out of my metamorphosed belly button).

My initiated friends are completely split down the fence in terms of their own, personal, labors of love. Some of my friends relish in the thrill of sitting around a campfire, reliving traumatic stories to unsuspecting novices of their birthing horrors.  Some simply shrug off the experience, as though it is an everyday outing to the grocery store; instead of bringing home 8 pounds of groceries, they picked up an 8 pound baby.  Other gal-pals have endured twenty-two hour marathons, while some almost had their baby delivered in their car en route to the hospital.  With the way that my husband drives, I may simultaneously experience both the twenty-two hour marathon as well as giving birth in our Honda. 

As women living in the United States, we are barraged with numerous options and decisions in terms of creating and managing our own, unique birthing plan.  Although these options are supposed to empower us, they are little more than a false illusion of control, as many other factors can contribute to necessary, but unplanned medical interventions. Before Baby J decided to launch into action two month's early, I had my own expectations on how I would deliver. 

After diligently researching the effects of an epidural, I decided that I did not want to be a rotisserie chicken, cooking away in the strict confines of the bed until baby popped out.  I craved freedom, and wanted the ability to move around the hospital, utilizing my birthing ball, walking around the delivery room floor, proactive in all of the labor poses that I could muster.  I signed up for a hypno-birthing class, with hopes that I could utilize self-hypnosis as a means to transport my mind somewhere far, far away.  Also, I hired a doula, or professional labor coach, to alleviate some of my anxiety and discomfort as well as my husband's.  Quite ironically, I have already experienced being chained to the hospital bed, all limbs fully incapacitated, hooked up to IVs and other contraptions.  Also, since I have been diagnosed with questionable placenta previa, there is a good chance that I may need a cesarean after all.

Each night, before I go to bed, I wonder if tonight will be my initiation ritual.  I have not drafted a carefully manuscripted birthing plan to distribute to the nursing staff, I never had the chance to take the highly anticipated hypno-birthing class so I will be unable to disconnect my mind from my body, and my doula will probably flee the delivery room, husband in tow, at the first sight of my head spinning around, exorcist style.  However, in the end, I will be 100%, fully ingrained as a lifelong member of the tribe.


  1. Sam, calling labor torture is just your fear talking. It's painful, yes, but you are so strong. and it's the one time of your life that the pain is serving you, your body is working, your baby is working.

    I don't say this to convince you not to get an epidural. If you need it, you need it. Full stop. There are no prizes for going med-free. Just don't doubt your strength. Labor is the hardest physical thing you will do. But it's birthing your baby and when it's over, you get to meet your son! I used Susan McMoyler's dvds and found her breathing techniques, so so so helpful. if you want them, they're yours.

    Love you!

  2. So happy to hear you have a doula (of course I am a little biased :-) ). She will be an enormous help, I know, as you move through the stages of your "initiation" (and it IS an initiation) by alleviating some of the anxiety and reducing adrenaline levels. As my business partner likes to say, "adrenaline is the anti-labor." She'll help Jon be calmer, too, and calmer husband = calmer mother = smoother birth. You have already been through so much that has been outside your control. You will get through labor and birth also, one breath at a time.

    Hugs from afar, Audrey

  3. Sam-Don't underestimate yourself at all! I've had two babies and the best advice I can pass along is just to remind yourself with every contraction to relax, remember to concentrate on breathing slowly and breath through the contraction. I didn't do that very well with baby #1 but really focused on that with #2 and it made a HUGE difference! Do not listen to the horror will not remember those parts of the journey after you are holding Baby's SOOO worth every single minute of the labor and delivery process.