I really like it when I go to my homebirth support group and the leader says: "Birth is painful. The most hard and painful thing I've ever done." And majority of the women there agree. I'm very grateful when other homebirthing mamas remark on how HARD and powerful birth is.
I had a 20 hour labor and successful homebirth but it took me months to really absorb the event. I felt guilty and confused that the Hypnobabies relaxation techniques seemed to fail. I couldn't understand why it took DS 20 hours of 3 minutes apart contraction to arrive. I felt like a failure for pushing for 4 hours. What had I done wrong??? What was wrong with ME?
It was a good birth according to some. My mom told me the other day how well I did, much better than any of the 8 times she birthed my siblings. But DS's birth wasn't what I was expecting and the pain was REAL, not to be relaxed away like other women said they did. I'm still in the process of accepting how things went and we're TTC our second! I really want to sit down and have a nice long talk with my midwife about my birth and reflect on it with her. I suppose I'll do that when I meet with her for prenatal with our next babe!
I do think unmedicated birth is best for mama and baby physically HOWEVER mentally, women need to be healthy as well. If having an epidural or Cesarean birth is best for a mama, I am happy to support that. Assigning a "one size birth fits all" theory to all women is damaging. Just because I had a certain kind of birth does not mean everyone else must also have that kind of birth.
Me: Sarah, married to: J, mommy to: C (8/10) and E (11/12)
Mentally, avoiding the epidural would have been better for me, but physically... after 15 hours of pit contractions I could NOT face the three or more hours more it would have taken me to birth him. And by "couldn't face it" I mean that with every contraction my whole body was tensing up (and I TEACH controlled relaxation, dammit) and all I could say was "no no no no no". At that point I flat out didn't believe it was going to be a vaginal birth. His head just wasn't descending well, and I couldn't work with it, was too tired to walk, my knees hurt too much to kneel on the bed anymore, the shower was just uncomfortable, and so since surgery was going to require anesthesia anyway, I figured the epidural would give us one last chance.
And it did. Without taking that chance, the next option was surgery. I did everything I know how to do, and I worked for Midwifery Today for 7 1/2 years on top of my other training, so my bag of tricks is pretty dang big, and NONE of it was fixing things. We tried lots of things before labor to get that head turned, but needed contractions that NOTHING was getting going to move him, and he was well cooked, past cooked when he came out, so clearly "wait until he's ready" wasn't the answer. So yeah, pit.
My first, relaxation and walking all worked, gangbusters. But I was 21 years old, and in reasonable physical condition. This was my first baby with full blown fibro, at age 39, and it was a whole different critter. I'm sad that it was as hard as it was, but you know what? I did exactly what I needed to get that baby born, and at every step of the way we did exactly what we needed to do to keep things as low-intervention as possible... and in the end, I pushed him out into my husband's hands, the hospital didn't suction him, didn't mess with his cord, let us have all the time we wanted, and we got out of there less than 8 hours after he was born, despite the epidural, without leaving AMA. It could have been so, so much worse. I wish it could have been better, but I'm grateful with every bone of my being that I did not have to fight to keep us safe... each intervention was instigated at my prompting, with my permission, and was needed.
And that was NOT true for my first birth. They *damaged* me, damaged my daughter, did not protect us, and did not understand, and tried to make me feel like a bad person for doing things my way. So while it hurt less, going through transition, recovering was so, so hard, made worse by the world saying, "But your baby is healthy and you had a natural birth, why are you bitching about it?"
My medicated birth was physically harder... and emotionally far less damaging. Because I was the one in charge. Things were not done "to" me without my permission. Where there was time to ask, they asked, to the point where when it came to some things routine, like bp and fetal monitoring, I told them to quit asking and just do it because parsing the question was harder than just having the thing done.
Jenrose, Mama to DD1, born 1993, DD2, born 2005, and DS1, Jan. 2012. Babywearing, cosleeping, homebirthing mom with fibromyalgia and hashimotos. DD2 has a rare chromosome disorder.
My body seemed to tolerate giving birth well, well, to a certain extent. I was 24 (am 26 now), and sure got him out fast enough (20 minutes of pushing) and in great shape, but emotionally experiencing that level of pain (with the pushing, I felt like the whole dilation phase was very intense and painful but not traumatizing) during the pushing has done a lot of emotional damage to me. It really felt like I was being raped again and again with a knife. There was no relief during the pushing stage, only the worst pain I could ever have imagined. It took the contractions of transition and made them seem like nothing. I was just screaming and thrashin around that tub. When my sweet son was born I was full-on hyperventilating--he was coming without any pushing on my part at all, but I couldnt breathe. It was so scary and excruciating andn traumatic and as soon as he was born the pool immediately filled dark red with my blood and I just bled all over the place and it was very difficult for the midwife to stop it (repeated massaging of utuerus every five minutes was what I needed for almost the whole night). I have such a love for the power and beauty of natural birth when I see videos or youtubes . . .but ours looks horrible, and scary and just so violent. I have no idea what happened . . . but I feel emotionally devastated and just so confused. I thought natural birth was supposed to be "empowering" "beautiful" all that stuff . . . that was the worst thing to ever happen to me. THe damage was terrible, I was barely walking until around 8 weeks post partum, and I have horrible scarring down there. Natural birth for us, and homebirth especially, was just a really big let down. None of the supposed benefits happened to us. Horrible recovery, traumatic level of pain, feeling out of control and scared, midwife didnt end up coming until very end and it was much more impersonal than we thought . . . thank God baby Joseph got a good birth, but we are very very turned off to homebirth, and probably natural birth as well. Our homebirth midwife couldnt really handle my hemmorhage, and she didnt tell me I needed sewing (which I DID!!!) so we didint end up getting it stitched until 4 weeks afterwards and i cannot even describe what a horrible F-up that was . . . I should have been stitched by a surgeon right away, instead of limping around ripping it up all over the place for those 4 weeks, crying and crying whenever I had to use the bathroom. What a f-in slaughter it all was. I was just dumbfounded by how very violent giving birth was for me andt he terrible physical damage it did to my body. None of the natural birth education I received beforehand prepared me for that.
I want to enjoy giving birth, not feel like someone is stabbing me with a knife while I thrash around the floor. I obviously *could* do it over again, but then I might lose out on ever having a birth I enjoy or can look back on fondly. What a high price to pay . . . I dont really feel proud of giving birth naturally, mostly I feel traumatized by it, and sad, because I wish I did feel proud and I wish I could say I enjoyed it and how empowered I am and how beautiful it is. I'm sad because I cant truthfully say any of those things. The pain was emotionally devastating. I went to such a dark place . . .
I can relate on a certain level with what you have written. I also had a homebirth, and was unprepared for how traumatizing giving birth can be. I pushed for almost 3 hours, contractions one on top of another with no break in between, and got to the point of being hysterical. He was stuck under my pelvic bone for a long time. When he finally popped out all at once I had about 4 tears, most of them small, one near my clitoris, and my labia on one side was much more badly torn than I realized. I refused stitches although my midwife could have done them (I was just too upset at the time to think rationally I think.) I did bleed heavily and almost got to the point of needing pitocin. When I finally could move enough to go take a shower, I stayed in the hot water too long, and almost passed out. I got the shakes for an hour or two after that. The strangest thing was that I pulled the brachial tendons (which run from neck and down the arm) while I was pushing and it caused both my thumbs to go tingly and then numb! And it was so painful for days until my chiro figured out what was wrong. I think on about day 5 postpardum I realized that my labia still hadn't healed and had a mini breakdown. It didn't occur to me to try to have it fixed at that point, because it had healed, just not back together.
So, anyway, I was upset that I didn't have a birth I felt fabulous about either. I did have a wonderful midwife and support from my husband and family, but I felt disillusioned for sure.
I hope that maybe this can offer you some hope, if you do decide to have another one. My second birth so different than my first it was like night and day. I had a short 4 hour labor (I was two weeks late, so my body did a lot of the work slowly, I had contractions nightly from 37 weeks on), and push about 20 minutes total. My contractions were nicely spaced, not truly painful, and between them I was talking and laughing right up until transition. The only complication was his shoulders being stuck, and his hand coming out over his face, but even this wasn't too bad, I just had to go from standing to on all fours and he came right out. I did have a small tear again, sadly, but was stitched up right away, not fun! But overall, it was a positive experience. I hate that I have torn both times, and it makes me nervous for this time (16 weeks along). I'm not sure if it was just the easier labor and birth itself, or having a seasoned experience of what birth is like for me. I know that I'll basically cry and think I can't do it when it comes to transition, and I've made peace with that. I'm just not a quiet, focused person. I'll never reach down and catch my own baby, or feel in control at that point of birth.
I think that it makes some people nervous to hear our stories, and maybe it would have been too much for me if I had known going into it the first time what it was going to be like, but certainly you shouldn't let anyone deny your experience, or be afraid to go a different route next time (hospital, birth center, etc, different provider) or simply chosing not to do it again.
While I didn't do formal counseling I did have alot of debriefing and processing to do to get ready for the next time. I wish you all the space, time and support you need to heal from your experience. We need mothering too.
Yellow73, thank you so much for writing! reading your experience was so nice for me. I'm so sorry you went through all that you did. 3 hours of pushing makes my heart ache for you. No one should have to experience that pain. I dont find it beneficial or edifying or any of that. Its just . . . ugh. The tearing was very traumatic too, I hear you. I also had a minibreakdown around 4 weeks postpartum (STILL not sewed up) and just begged my husband to make it all go away . . . take the pain away . . . it was so horrible, to be hurting that much. It was a horrible call by our inexperienced midwife that I didnt need stitches. It put us through additional and needless hell. I wish that had never happened. It never should have. It really is malpractice, but there's nothing to do. At least I'm healed now, but its horrible what happened. The birth at the end was horrible too. I dont think I'll ever be in control at the end of it either, and look inward and gather the strength and then catch my own baby, but I'm no where NEAR making peace about it. I still feel like a flopping failure because I'm not like the pretty ladies in the movies who breathe the baby out. How about screaming the baby out, one.agonizing.scream.at.a.time . . .? I think I'll also always cry and just want to bury my head and die during the end bits. If I could avoid second stage again, I think I'd be more open to a second natural birth but that was horrifying. Difficult is not the right word. Hard is not the right word. There are no right words, only the words "so bad . . . it was so bad . . ." I cant say "natural birth was hard" and mean it. I mean something very very different than hard. and much worse. Its hard to keep hope alive for another one to be different, but I'll try my best. Without a doubt we will never do homebirth again, not with our horrible and scary experience. And definitely a lot of my views of birth died with that one. I see it now as a very hard and violent thing to happen to our bodies . . . I dont know why it needs to be that way or was designed or happens that way, but I am upset about it. I dont see why we need to be torn in half and scream and bleed to have a baby . . . why it cant all be much nicer, but oh well. I guess I'm wised up now. I had a very idealistic education about birtha nd really ate it all up. Definitely shocked me to my core with what giving birth ended up being like. I hope next time is different, but we will be in a hospital, with skilled people to sew me next time, to prevent and stop hemmorhage and with pain drugs available if it gets to the "this is just horribly traumatizing" part. I in no way benefited from experiencing that level of pain, and i wont let myself again. If its manageable (the way I felt it pretty much was until say around 9 centimeter) then I'll do it, but if it gets to a 10 again, I'm out. And I do see some serious flaws in the natural birth education out there. Women need to know how traumatizing giving birth can be. I would have *greatly* appreciated more honesty and raw experiences as a first time pregnant woman. I really needed to know that, and I would not have spent the next 8 months walking around in absolute denial, lying to everyone with a smile on my face, if I'd known how horrible giving birth is for so many women, like the women on this board. There is just no pretty adjective I can give that experience. Not one. sadly. I wish it wasnt that way. I feel very sad and let down that it was. Guess the only thing to do is just "sigh" and say "I wish it wasnt like that. I really wish it wasnt." and hope it can be different somehow, either less pain or more drugs, in the future. I definitely will have more children. I just adore being pregnant and being a mommy. I really cant wait to be pregnant again, but thinking about giving birth makes me just want to crawl in bed and cry . . . I cant have another terrible recovery and feel so . . . really so raped by teh whole thing. That is the best word for it all. Just raped. sorry to be so graphic. I do not come from a history of sexual assault, but that's the best word to convey how giving birth was for me at the end. Until 9 centimeteres, I felt really good about it, working with it, hard, kinda scary, but managing it . . . at the end, it was just so awful . . . thanks so much for listening. What a joy to find you all*
I see this post was written a while ago but I was just so happy to come upon it and be able to tell my story.
I too watched documentaries, read books and articles about the over-medicalized births in this country. I saw the high infant mortality numbers in the US compared to other countries and decided I was going to bring my baby into the world in the "best" possible way. I chose a home water birth when I was at about 7months. My midwife, Marlene, wasn't inexperienced because she was older and had documentation she had delivered over 500 babies. A true veteren, she had even delivered my fiance's sister! I had so much faith in her and looked forward to a supportive female network to help me deliver my baby. It all sounded so wonderful and safe! It really wasn't anything like that...
I started labor on a Friday afternoon and didn't deliver until very early Monday morning. I was in labor for almost 3 whole days!! I was sick with congestion and fever before the labor started and then every night my contractions would rise in intensity so that I couldn't sleep at all! I felt horrible. To make it worse the big snow storm had some of Marlene's other clients go into labor and she would remind me that she was missing their births like every 5 minutes! I had bought some valerian root capsules to help calm me but I really wasn't thinking clearly enough to take them. Infact, she never tried to give me anything to help at all. There was this one time, it was so strange, she had this briefcase of herbs that she opened up on the last day and told ME to pick some to take while she went into the other room. She told me she couldn't watch me take them and definately couldn't tell me what or how much to take of anything or she would get into trouble(?)... Now, I don't know maybe some of you have felt like reading during your own pregnancies(doubt it) but being sick, two days without sleep and still in labor I didn't feel like reading anything! So I just walked out of the room. She also told me that I should go to the hospital to get some medication to help me sleep and then I could wake up and give birth naturally being refreshed by sleep. She was a nurse so she had to have known that they won't give you any drugs if you are 9cm dilated. I had Marlene her assistant who I had never met, MIL and fiance there with me. Fiance was suprisingly doing the bulk of the work, constantly warming up the birthing tub. The other three just seemed to sit on my couch and talk amongst themselves. I didn't feel like I was even an important part of the equation or even like I was in my own house! I was soo out of it, and I didn't have anyone who knew anything to look after me. I'm pretty sure I didn't even put pants on to go to the hospital, just wrapped up in blankets. Once I was at the hospital Marlene invited my mother, who I did not want in the room, come in and help me push. Ready for some rest, I let the Dr.'s use a vacume to facilitate things. When the Dr. pulled out the vacume, Marlene tried to argue against her using it. Her tone went from bad to worse after the vacume and I really sensed that she was judging me. It was horrible, not only had I failed at home and water birth but knowing my midwives were dissapointed in me was really devastating. After hours of pushing the snooty doctor gave up on me and said my baby was too big/stuck and that I would need a C section. At that point my midwives left me and went home, just went home! Told me they were tired, wished me luck and left! Looking back I see that was really uncalled for. Luckily, the C-section Dr. came in and massaged my cervix, which had a 'lip' that wouldn't efface and my dd was born1-2 hours later. It wasn't at home or in the water but it was still a natural birth. That I can still cling to but the rest of it is ruined! The midwife, the togetherness, the peace...all of it! It's not that the pain was unbearable, it was bad but I could've handled it a lot better if I would have had some sleep! I was worn out and had nothing left to give. I would've went along with a c section happily, it was really in the doctors hands.
I really don't think women in America are different: we still give birth the same as every other women. Maybe we are different just the was we think of birth... Public opinion was for a long time that the pain of birth was a biblical punishment. Liberated women of the 20's didn't feel they needed to endure this punishment and flocked to drugs like 'Twilight Sleep'. And it's been that way for a long time except for the resurgance of natural birth in the 60's and from the turn of this last century. But I think the majority is still being bombarded with these horrific images of childbirth on television and they are just scared to death! On the opposite side of the spectrum there is the natural birth movement that tells us to embrace the pain because it is liberating, because you will bond more with your child and the women who help you birth. The problem is that I think neither of these is what the majority of women actually experience! I think the natural birth movment is trying to counter the ideas and soothe the fears of many women. The problem is that attitude is counter-productive to providing clear, factual information to the majority and for giving women happier childbirths. I don't think those who advocate natural childcare are bad. This pattern is fairly common; I think of early modern feminism when women were really struggling to gain acceptance of men, to work in a men's world you almost had to reject everything femenine about yourself. It is just one extreme counteracting another extreme so that they may meet and cancel each other out. Like two water waves converging and becoming still. I just think we are waiting to find our own happy medium.
My advice would be 1) Really take time to interview your midwife 2) Don't wait until the last minute to choose home birth 3) Have someone who you go over every single detail of your birth with, trust me, when you are in labor you won't think about the whale music you bought 4) Practice your home birth with that person 5) Have a bag packed whether you are going for a home birth or not 6) Always, Always, Always have a back-up plan!
I wish everyone the best of luck with their next births and complete healing from their previous ones!