I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
April 18, 2012
My five-year-old son’s birth story began when my husband and I were on a walk, two weeks before my son was due.
As I walked up our neighborhood’s biggest hill, I had the unmistakable feeling that I’d… well… wet my pants a little. It hadn’t happened before, but I knew it was common in the last trimester and since my super-sized fetus (who would weigh in the next day at ten pounds) had been exerting some serious pressure on my bladder, I figured it was simply another indignity in the life of an extremely pregnant woman. I said nothing to my husband (oh, the teasing I’d have had to endure!) and changed when I got home.
As it turned out, I hadn’t wet my pants. My water had broken, but I didn’t realize it until I sat up in bed with a start at one in the morning. I stumbled to the bathroom, blearily aware that something was different, and there I had the classic “OH MY GAAHHHHH MY WATER HAS BROKEN!!!” moment. We hightailed it to the hospital at one in the morning, where I was promptly checked into Labor and Delivery- no triage for me! Once your water has broken, you’re in like Flynn.
When my obstetrician arrived, she immediately wanted details on the exact moment that it had happened.
“Well, technically it was at one in the morning,” I told her.
“Oh good,” she said. “So it hasn’t been long.”
“But,” I continued, “I think it may have actually happened at around seven. But I was out walking and just thought at the time that I had wet my pants a little.”
“Oh don’t tell me that,” she said nervously. “I don’t even want to know that. The longer it’s been since your water has broken, the greater the risk of infection. So we’ll just go with one a-m.”
This is how I learned that once your water breaks, the sooner you have your baby, the better. So I was surprised as I watched TLC’s A Baby Story while on the elliptical yesterday to see a woman laboring unsuccessfully in her apartment, ten hours after her water had broken… and then 15 hours… and then 20…. and then 24. At that point, the midwife told her she needed to go to the hospital, but still, the woman was resistant.
“I didn’t want to go,” the woman tells the camera in a soulful, after-the-fact interview (and her words are a paraphrase, since I couldn’t find the episode online.) “I had planned on a home birth. Having to go to the hospital was one of the worst moments of my life,” she finished, with tears in her eyes.
At that point, I fell off the elliptical.
Well, not really, but I might as well have.
Because… Really, lady? Choosing your baby’s safety (not to mention your own) over a home birth fantasy that clearly wasn’t working for you was one of the worst moments of your life?
Let’s get something straight before we continue. I’m all for home births, hospital births, water births, hypnobirths, natural births, and anything else you can dream up that’s been deemed safe. Every woman who’s having a child, who’s had a child or even who’s dreamed of having a child has an idea of how she wants labor and delivery to go.
But somehow over the years, drawing up a birth plan has become equivalent in women’s minds to planning a wedding. It’s alllllll about the mom, which is fine and dandy… until the mother’s demands potentially endanger the child. I’m seeing more and more women throw absolute fits after their birth plan goes awry, or devote numerous blog posts to their grief over their botched birth plan– despite the fact that they still came out of it with a brand new child who’s healthy and whole.
Forgive me if I’m way out of line, but I just don’t get it.
With Punky, I waited to get an epidural until the last possible moment — I wanted to feel like I had experienced labor (and ohhh, did I ever experience labor!), but I had absolutely no desire to feel the legendary “ring of fire” at the very end. I planned to wait for my epidural with Bruiser as well, but shortly after I checked into the hospital, his heart rate dropped briefly. Suddenly, doctors and nurses flooded the room and an anesthesiologist was in my face, asking to put in the epidural immediately. If it was in, she said, I’d be able to stay awake if I had to have an emergency c-section and even more importantly, they’d be able to get him out ten minutes sooner.
That was all I needed to know.
“Put it in,” I said. Yes, I was disappointed- and having an epidural for that long of a period was totally not fun. But I didn’t grieve. I didn’t mourn. I didn’t throw a fit.
I hadn’t checked into the hospital for “MY BIG FAT METICULOUSLY PLANNED BIRTH EXPERIENCE.” My main goal was to hold a healthy child in my arms at the end of the process.
I’m not here to criticize anyone. (Except for that woman on TLC. Seriously, woman. I hope that the moment you were told you’d have to have your baby in a hospital instead of your apartment really is the worst experience of your life, because then your life will be very good indeed.)
I’m merely suggesting that perhaps in the future, we counsel the pregnant women in our lives to consider their birth plans as less a set of rules and more a general idea of how they’d like things to go. Here’s the advice I’d offer, based on my experience having kids:
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?
Image via BradleyGee/Flickr
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It’s amazing how things fly out of your head in labor. Never brought out the music or the focal point that they kept talking about in class. I was in labor for 19 hours the first time, 15 hours the second. Neither time did I ever even remember that I could have labored for awhile in the bathtub. Maybe that would have helped. I did remember the birthing ball the second time. Maybe this is why a lot of mothers go with a doula!
I only have two regrets. I wish I had insisted with my first that I at least try pushing with the epidural instead of having it turned off after the three hours before pushing started. It might have helped keeping me from being so tired from the last 17 hours.
I finally got my epidural inserted after 14 hours (and at 6 cm) with my second daughter. My labor kept slowing whenever I had to be in bed and the doc couldn’t break my water before that because her head was pushed against the bag. He offered a spinal or an epidural. I went with the epidural thinking I had a few more hours left. Turns out after my water was broken and the epidural was inserted, I had gone from 6 to 10 in 40 minutes. Never even got the epidural meds in. Pushed baby out 20 minutes later. Should have gone for the spinal!
But at least I had two healthy babies.
You just made me remember the hilarious birth classes my husband and I attended before having my first. We went through breathing exercises, massage, etc. We used NONE of it. I didn’t want ANYONE touching me (or frankly, even LOOKING at me– at one point, I yelled at my entire extended family “What is everyone LOOKING at?!” while I was having a particularly painful contraction!) once I was in labor!!
I’m with you, Linds. I’ve never really understood the whole “birth plan” thing. And I don’t get women judging other women about how they gave birth. Like you said, the end goal is to get a healthy baby out of it. Everything else…is really just details.
My husband’s sister had a pretty elaborate birth plan with her firstborn, but it ended up not going that way because of a few unforeseen complications. She was blue about it for a while, until they had their birth class reunion and she found that out of the 10 couples there, only TWO had their births go as “planned”! That really gave her some perspective, and she said to me one of the wisest things: “Looking back, I’m actually kind of glad things didn’t go the way I had planned. Because I think if they had, it would have made me very self-righteous and judgmental of other women.” Wow. That takes guts to admit. And it has stuck with me, and was one of the factors in me having a very laid-back attitude about my birth with my first.
Looking back, I wish I had been more laidback about my first pregnancy and the labor process-I would have enjoyed the experience of it a lot more if I hadn’t been “researching” all the things that could go wrong so much!
Don’t we ALL wish we had been more laid-back with our first pregnancies? 🙂 I’m on #2 now and seriously, I’m so much more relaxed. It’s almost bizarre.
And that will only continue… I’ve let go of so much mommy guilt that sometimes I feel guilty about it. 😉
It’s true – it’s a plan, not a contract written in blood. Do what you can but heed the advice of those who are there to make the whole thing end with a healthy baby and mom. My birth plan went like this: “I hope to have as little intervention as possible, but let’s just see how it goes.”
And you already know my feelings on the judgey-judegertons out there so I’ll just end it here. 😉
My plan is to not have a plan other than delivering a healthy and happy baby. In 20 weeks (holy crap I’m halfway there) I plan on arriving at the hospital, telling them I’m ready and taking their advice on how to get the baby out the best and healthiest way for both me and her. And of course I will be asking for an epidural, and the best drugs that they have available. Because I would like to get though this in the least amount of pain as possible. Easy Peasy! I realize that I am a first time mom with NO clue what I am doing, but I’m thinking that the more calm and collected I am and open to ideas, the better the whole thing will go down.
If no plan is right for you, then that’s the right way to do it! It certainly creates less stress at the hospital, because you don’t have to worry too much about whether your plan is being followed. I had a detailed, well-researched plan with my daughter, but no plan with my son– because at that point, I had been to the hospital before and was very comfortable that the staff was excellent and responsive to my wants and needs and we could all make the necessary decisions together as they came up.
i had no birth plan the first time around. i trusted my doctor & induced labor a day before my due date because my daughter ‘might be big.’ my gut told me to wait, but my impatience to meet my daughter told me to trust my doctor. i had 27 hours of labor, never dilated past 6 cm, and ultimately had a c-section because the stress of labor was too much for both me & baby. she weighed 7 lbs 13 oz.
with my son, i was insistent that i’d have a say this time around. i worked with both my doctor & a doula to form a birth plan i was happy with. we agreed to avoid inducing until i was a full week past my due date. i went into labor naturally exactly seven days past. again, a v-e-r-y long labor (25 hours this time) and a c-section. it broke my heart to go through it again, but once the doctor said it was time – i trusted her.
so i both agree & disagree with you. for me, feeling like i had a say in the process empowered me to be ok with the labor not going as planned. the birth plan was crucial for that. however, i completely agree that once the doctor says it’s time, it’s time. i gave up control once the health of my baby was a concern. however – if asked – i’d wholeheartedly recommend to any mom to create a birth plan, with the understanding that, like all plans, they may not become reality.
i feel great knowing that i made the choice to have a healthy baby rather than do it ‘my’ way, but there is a heavy sadness i feel when i think about the c-sections, and i believe i have a right to grieve that.
I had a birth plan and absolutely recommend it- It’s good to do your reading and research and have an idea of how you want things to go. You are an active part of the process. But I think it’s important for women to realize that things might not go according to “plan” and to see the birth plan as a collaborative effort between everyone involved in the birthing process. I’m starting to see a “my way or the highway” sentiment among women regarding their birth plan and I think it’s ridiculous, not to mention insulting to the experts helping to deliver the baby. You REALLY don’t want to piss off your OB or midwife, right? 😉
Kinda funny you mention that, because I just went to a birth options class this past weekend in my city. Very informative.
Did you know in Europe they wait 96 hours after the membranes have ruptured before they induce or go in via c-section? Last year it was 72 hours, and even though the possibility of infection is increased, they didn’t actually see an increase in uterine infection in women.
The people putting on the class (a certified lactation consultant and a doula) also re-iterated the fact that if you don’t introduce bacteria to the cervix (via having intercourse or constant cervical exams) that your chances of infection are virtually zero. They also said that many doctors in the US are more likely to wait longer periods of time (not quite as long as in the EU), but can also put you on antibiotics to make sure that you don’t get an infection.
Why is it that the the rates of picotin use, c-section and other
artificial means of labor induction and delivery are once again at an
all time high in the US? Why is it that the EU has a much lower rate of
maternal/neonate death than the US? Why do they have lower rates of
artificial induction and delivery? If you look at the data, the safest
place to have a child in the world is Iceland, and 90% of the women
there have natural homebirths with a midwife. Why is it that our
country is supposed to be this beacon of choice and freedom, and we are
near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to maternal and neonate
health? Why is it that the countries that are taking an almost paleolithic approach to childbirth have healthier mothers and babies?
I’m not trying to argue, I’m just trying to argue the other side. I am working out a birth plan with my partner, and there isn’t a single thing on there about mood lighting or scented candles. I want a healthy labor and delivery, and a healthy infant to show for it. I have certain plans that have to do with the health of my child, and if interventions have to be taken to insure a healthy delivery, then I will accept that. But I do NOT want to be rushed into a picotin drip, membrane rupture or c-section if it isn’t necessary. We have chose to have our child in a birthing center within an hospital for this reason. We chose a midwife who works out of a very professional and thorough OB/GYN office for this very same reason, and she assures me our choices are informed choices, and she supports our birth plan 100%. However, I will agree with you Lindsay, that many mothers are doing this for themselves. They want to be queens in the room, with all the attention on them. That is not the case at all with many people who want home and/or natural birth. That being said, I’m also very disgusted by the woman who goes in for planned induction on a certain date for whatever stupid reason it was chosen. Babies aren’t born on their DUE dates, they’re born on their BIRTH dates.
On a side note: My mother barely birthed me after 32 hours of labor. She was given demerol for pain, and had no sleep or food for the entire 32 hours (she went to the hospital way too early). I went into distress, lodged in the birth canal. The OB performed an episiotomy and had to use forceps to pull me out. I was 9lbs. 1 oz. I don’t want that for myself or my child.
I’m not opposed to a birth plan at all- I did all the reading on c-sections, pitocin, etc before I had my first and had a very detailed idea of how I wanted things to go. For example- I wanted no pitocin at all. Period. And the nurses were respectful of that. However, I was respectful of the nurses too, and when my labor hadn’t progressed after many, many hours and they wanted to use pitocin and I didn’t, we ended up comfortably compromising on the lowest dose of Pitocin possible. Everything progressed at a good pace after that and everyone was happy.
My suggestion is that women regard their birth plan as a list of ideas, and be open to the opinions and input of the experts around them once the birth is actually happening. No one’s trying to hurt you or your baby and everyone involved has likely done it hundreds or even thousands of times before. And if something doesn’t go according to plan, but you still come home with a healthy child? Let it go. Not you in particular, but every woman. 🙂
Exactly. My birth plan ran the gamut of things from “don’t shave me” (seems silly, but it was important to me at the time) to “don’t offer me drugs – I’ll ask for them if I want them” and “no episiotomy.” I sat down with my doctor and went over it line by line weeks before I was due. She was wonderful, and we compromised on several of the things I had written. I knew what I wanted and didn’t want, while at the same time recognizing that this woman had birthed thousands of babies and knew her stuff better than I did. I was more than willing to listen to her, and she gave me the same respect.
L.Z., I am a labor/delivery RN here in the E.U. (beautiful northern Italy to be exact 🙂 ). Maybe it’s just the area that I am from, but there are a lot of dangerous, archaic things going on here: pregnant women being sent home on PO magnesium, routine use of terbutaline, midwives pushing down on the fundus during pushing, etc. The low-risk birthing center here has a VERY low C-section rate, but the local hospital is pretty high (don’t have exact % for you, but will look). I’ve also never heard or seen of the 96 hour ROM time either…Again, maybe it’s just the area that I practice in, because I see JUST as much intervention done here, as I did in the U.S…maybe even more, and done in a more dangerous and liberal way.
I wish you the BEST of luck with your delivery! I was originally trained by midwives and love the midwifery plan of care.
(P.S. I am an American, educated and trained and practiced in the U.S. and am now an expat here in Italy.)
I gave birth last week to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I went into the whole experience with few expectations of how I “wanted” it to go. My nurses were flat-out SHOCKED that I didnt have a birth plan (other than knowing I would want an epidural). They said 9 out of 10 women come in with birth plans that undermine the expertise of medical professionals and end up going out the window at some point during delivery anyway! All I cared about was delivering a healthy baby, no matter if it took every forcep, vacuum, or emergency c-section in the place!
Lindsey, I, like you, attempted to hold off on the epidural as long as I could to “feel the labor.” I made it to 5cm and am glad I did it. Next time, though, I’ll get it as soon as the doctors will let me :).
Many women are surprised that with epidurals today, you can still feel everything happening– you just don’t feel the pain. I certainly didn’t expect that when I had my first and was pleasantly surprised!
NOTHING related to my pregnancy or delivery went as planned. But I don’t think Birth Plans existed 22 years ago anyway.
I was bleeding internally from a ruptured cyst and found out I was pregnant IN the ER. They thought it was ectopic so they did surgery but my little zygote was sitting in my uterus happy as a clam. So I was out of work for my first trimester sticking progesterone suppositories up there to provide the hormone to keep zygote in place.
2nd and third trimester we were in the process of buying a house – and selling same house that owners and realtors misrepresented. We lived with friends for the last 2 weeks of my pregnancy. We moved into our new house and I spent the last weekend before I gave birth unpacking and entire house.
Birth? Oh yeah, one week overdue so I was induced around noon. They broke my water just about immediately so when the little bugger still wasn’t making his presence known at 5AM the next morning after hours and hours of back labor and an epidural, I had a C-section and a 9 lb. 1-1/2 oz baby removed from my 4’11” body. Husband tried to exit stage left when they were wheeling me in but I said “oh no, you’re coming too”.
No surprise I was One and Done!
Ha! Now THAT’S a birth story!!
I completely agree! This is so timely – just last night I saw on a friend’s facebook post that she had read an article titled “birth rape” (just google “yahoo” and “birth rape” and you can read it yourself). I had to read it to see what had happened. Turns out, it was a completely inflammatory headline, there was no “rape” whatsoever, and it was a pity-party article about a woman who had been “forced” into an emergency c-section “against her will and her birth plan”. All I could think was “give me a break!”. This woman should be grateful that medical providers were able to save her baby’s life, not exaggerating that she has been victimized by them!
I’ve never understood what seems like the compulsion that some women have to relive/discuss/kvetch about their labor and delivery experiences (or to try to plan them ahead of time). If someone asks, OK, fine, but otherwise, why go into all the details, when the ONLY ONE that matters is that you ended up with a healthy baby? Maybe I’m just not particularly sentimental about that kind of thing, but I honestly don’t remember exactly how long my labor was, how long I pushed for, etc., etc., but instead just the broad strokes (C-section with first, VBAC with second) and the fabulous outcomes of two perfect baby boys. I love your quarterback analogy – spot on, not just in terms of teamwork and everyone playing their proper role, but also a good QB’s ability to shift from one type of offensive play to another on the spur of the moment.
If I’m pressed, I can think of five or six different things that happened during the labor and delivery experience that I didn’t like (and some, honestly, were major- like when a nurse allowed my entire family to come in the room the moment my daughter was born, while the doctor was still working on me!). But I look back on both experiences as very positive, because I came home with healthy babies. What else matters, in the end?
Thank you for this article, I’ve seen so many stories on how depressed or upset women get when they cant have the birth THEY want and not what is good for the baby… All three of my births were different but it was all about having a healthy baby… I put my trust in my doctor and have three beautiful girls…
I think that trust in your doctor really is key– Everything else goes much more smoothly if you can find the right OB.
I wasn’t disappointed because my birth plan was very simple. Healthy baby, healthy mommy and as little pain as possible. I scored all three 🙂 I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. I just don’t understand how women can be so married to their birth plan. Haven’t we all seen enough movies/ TV shows (which I know are always ridiculous when it comes to birth scenes but still) and heard enough stories from friends and family to know things rarely go as planned when babies are involved???
I just imagine that every OB has a AT LEAST a dozen UNBELIEVABLE birth plan stories…
I beg to differ, I was VERY upset that I had to have a C-section with my son. Of course I was OVERJOYED that I had a healthy baby in the end, but who wouldn’t be upset to have major surgery? Who wouldn’t be upset to have something not go their way? It’s better to get it out and complain than to hold it in and get depressed I think. While I think that woman on TLC was pretty dramatic about it, she had just had a baby and we all know that those hormones can be a beast to deal with. I don’t think it’s bad to have a birth plan or to be a bit upset when it doesn’t go your way. We’re all different and we all handle situations differently.
Also I agree with Amanda. When my dr said it was time I didn’t fight it at all, but that doesn’t mean I was happy with it.
I’m trying not to criticize anyone who was very upset that things didn’t go according to their birth plan (besides the woman on TLC, who I think was over the top)- but I am suggesting that, moving forward, if pregnant women come to terms early on with the fact that things might not go according to their birth plan and their child might in fact be born by c-section if things go awry, they hopefully will find it easier to deal with if that in fact happens. C-sections suck, though, no doubt.
C-sections do suck, but when your baby is in distress, and that’s what you need, you go with it! I posted on your facebook page that I ended up with an emergency section (after pushing for TWO HOURS) and I felt like SUCH a failure! It didn’t take me long to realize that that was the hormones talking, though. I had my healthy baby boy, and that’s what really counted.
I work in early intervention and have seen first hand what can happen when a c-section is not performed – and should have been. The most recent? The child is now 3 and has a feeding tube, trach, seizures, vision and hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, cannot sit on her won, roll, etc. All 3 of the kids I worked with in this situation have families who sued – and won.
I am so incredibly GRATEFUL that I was offered c-sections with my boys when problems arose. There truly are MUCH WORSE things in the world.
I agree with you completely. This is all about control. These women are forgetting that this is a natural, physical event that is medically assisted. It is not something you can plan like a wedding, although I do see young women that attempt it.
But on the same token, having a baby (not birthing the baby, but HAVING the baby after it is born) is totally unpredictable and uncontrollable as well. They sleep when they want, get sick, teethe, nurse well or can’t latch on, gain weight or don’t, etc etc etc for THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.
Moms to be need to understand that having a baby is all about GIVING UP CONTROL. They need to be flexible, ready to embrace what comes (at least the best they can).When I was pregnant (25 and 30 years ago!) there was HUGE pressure to deliver naturally. It was a badge of honor. I was able to do it – both times. The second one was breech until shortly before labor. I was terrified that I might need a c-section, which would have been a huge moral failure. I went to a midwife who put me in weird contorted positions to encourage the baby to ‘turn,’ which, happily, she did and I ended up able to deliver her naturally. Not even episiotomy.
But in the long run (and 25/30 years is A LONG RUN), who cares? I put myself under a huge amount of pressure for no good reason.
Of course these days, less women are trying to accomplish that – the epidural is much more widely accepted and desired. But as I read your post, I could see the control aspect clearly. Women want to envision it and have it that way. Any deviation is a big disappointment.
To me – bringing home a healthy baby is ALL that matters.
As an aside, when I was born, 1957 – my mom was put under as was the custom. Three years later, when she had my brother (1960) she had read the Lamaze books. She was determined to deliver awake and naturally with the breathing, etc. My dad was not allowed in the room. As she labored, the doc kept telling the nurse “Put her under” and my mom kept telling the nurse “Don’t you dare!” My mom won, delivered naturally (and awake) and was a pioneer of sorts in the natural childbirth trend. I guess that’s a pretty interesting birth story too, never thought of it that way.
Good points- and great birth story! My mom was put under, too, in 1975. I’m so glad that practice has fallen out of favor!
I was born in 1954, the third of my mother’s 6 live births. I was the first one born in a hospital! The only time she had an actual OB deliver her the baby almost died because the nurses kept holding her legs together so she wouldn’t deliver until the doctor showed up. She went back to being delivered by GPs after that! I can assure you she delivered every one of us (1949, 1952, 1954, 1958, 1962, and 1962) naturally!
I was born in 1954, the third of my mother’s 6 live births. I was the first one born in a hospital! The only time she had an actual OB deliver her the baby almost died because the nurses kept holding her legs together so she wouldn’t deliver until the doctor showed up. She went back to being delivered by GPs after that! I can assure you she delivered every one of us (1949, 1952, 1954, 1958, 1962, and 1962) naturally!
You have officially become my common sense hero!
After a few bad experiences with OB-GYNs and true life horror stories that are a part of my life, I started looking into home birth. Home birth and natural birth has been performed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of times moreover than hospital births.
I believe that many (NOT ALL) hospitals and practices have bastardized the birthing process. For instance, planned induction or rushing into pitocin and medicinal means of pain management that interfere with the natural order of life. There are some doctors who will pressure to induce or to perform unnecessary functions/procedures to drive up the bill because some of them are paid “fee per service.”
The medical field has been a huge part of my life, with two medical professionals for parents, and I am a huge proponent of very serious, well-researched birth plans. I am also a proponent of doulas, midwives, and other advocates for the mother’s wishes.
I agree that the TLC woman took it too far. I feel that the health of the child is the most important factor and her whining about going to the hospital might be a little dramatic. However, in the heat of the moment, I might have said the same thing. And it IS television, after all. We should expect it to be dramatic.
My point is that I feel my (future) child’s health would be best put into the hands of A) my body, which was designed to carry and deliver it and B) an experienced and caring professional, such as a midwife and NOT in the hands of a money-hungry hospital if at all possible.
I will come right out and say that I do not trust the American medical system in any way and that it has fallen under abuse by many people. I don’t believe that medicine is the answer to every problem, or even most problems. I don’t feel it is appropriate for a hospital to dictate when I can eat or sleep, when I can hold my child, when I can start feeding my child, or when people can be introduced. I do not trust that my child’s best care could be had at a hospital or with a doctor in a maternity ward.
My SIL was prevented from seeing her child for hours after the birth because the pediatrician had not arrived to inspect the child. My mother had her pelvis dislocated indirectly because of the actions of a careless OB-GYN. Another important woman in my life almost died during birth, along with her son, because of the ineptitude of her OB-GYN. Their lives were saved when she was split from hole to hole, a procedure that cost her months and months of harsh recovery and also almost took her life later when she began to hemorrhage.
Like everything else in America, hospitals are centered on efficiency and income. As a people, WE SUCK AT CARING FOR OURSELVES.
Sorry for the novella. As you can tell, I feel very strongly.
That’s why the call me The Opinionated Girl, I guess.
Much of what you touched on underscores the importance of finding a good OB, whom you trust and who treats you like your opinions and ideas are important, too. I have absolutely no problems with midwives and home births – my only concern would be that if you end up having to go to the hospital, you can’t really have chosen an emergency OB in advance, right? And if a complete stranger were delivering my baby, I can imagine LOTS of potential for miscommunication and trouble.
I agree, to a point. Sometimes an OB may seem very trustworthy until they are in the delivery room (such as in the case of the “other important woman” who thought she was safe until she almost died, along with her newborn). If you are planning a homebirth or birthing center birth, it can’t hurt to have an emergency clause. I also DO intend to have my OB perform my check ups and other things and if something were to go wrong, I would hope that my midwife or doula would accompany me to the hospital to advocate for my opinions and ideas.
I think my birth plan was more for before the birth than during. I am such a planner, so mapping things out was calming. However, I had every intention of things going differently if need be. I handed my plan to the nurses and told them I just want what is best for me and my baby. Of course, some things went as planned, other things not so much. My husband and my doula played Scrabble for about 22 hours while I was in labor because I didn’t want anyone talking to me, touching me, or looking at me. Yup. Everything goes out the window!
Ha ha, I felt the same way! I told everyone to stop looking at me, including my (at the time) 80-year-old grandmother!
I guess I only had about three things on my birth plan.
1. Epidural at first opportunity
2. NO ONE was allowed in the room during labor and delivery except medical staff and my husband plus not one phone call was to be put through to the room.
3. If I required an emergency c-section (not necessary thank goodness), the only people allowed to hold my babybefore me would be my husband or medical staff.
The last one was due to a friend telling me about her sister-in-law who had an emergency c-section and had to be put under. By the time she got out of the recovery room, the baby had been given a bath and every single person in her family had held the baby including some tag-alongs whom she had never even met!
When Punky was born, her mouth had to be suctioned out right away, so they whisked her away from me immediately after delivery (they had warned me this would happen). THEN some idiot in the delivery room opened the door to my entire family waiting outside, WHILE the doctor was still working on me in plain view! Another nurse realized what was happening and pulled a curtain around me- I had to listen as my family all stood around the baby (which I couldn’t see), oohing and aahing while I weakly said “Can I see my baby please? Can I please, please see my baby?” No one even heard me.
Yeah. Good times. 😉
I was born in 1948 in the hallway on the way to the delivery room. Back in those days the women were completely knocked out and most babies, because they also received the drugs through their mothers, were lethargic & not too great looking. My Mom always told me that people came from all over the hospital to see the beautiful baby who was a very healthy pink and quite active. You’d think the doctors & nurses would have made a connection – no drugs = healthy, pink, active baby. My brother was born in 1953 and he got the full drug treatment. But in 1956 Mom had my sister while still in the elevator on the way to the delivery room, another beautiful pink active baby.
Back then women stayed in the hospital, in bed, for two weeks. The hospital bill for my sister, born in 1946, was $150 for the two weeks. One of my aunts graduated from nursing school in 1950; her first assignment as an RN was in maternity. She was to help a woman (who had been in bed for two weeks) get dressed and ready to leave. The woman sat on the side of the bed for a while, then stood up and dropped dead – the two weeks in bed had caused blood clots which traveled to her lungs or heart, killing her instantly. We’ve come a long way.
I think knowledge is power, so knowing what to expect and how different things might be medically handled is good. Mama and her trusted doctor should be able to work together to handle what comes up. That said, I agree with you that many women are taking it personally when those things inevitably do come up and things don’t go as planned. I think pregnancy as a whole, though, has become very mother-centric. I mean, when practical strangers ask you about the condition of your cervix as if that is proper fodder for conversation….I don’t understand. I always wanted to counter by asking about THEIR lady (or manly) bits, too. With all the magazines acting as if pregnancy and birthing babies has only been around for a little while, no wonder mamas walk into the hospital expecting every demand to be met.
I found I had some grieving to do after having a C-section. I had a very rough induction, labor, and surgery. My OB was terrific, but I had a baby whose head and shoulders would not fit through my pelvis. I was so excited to have a healthy baby, but I had to deal with some PTSD from the experience as a whole. I had to grieve the fact that my body was cut open, the fact that I remember very little from the hospital, the fact that I didn’t get to hold my baby for hours…..all of that pales, of course, to the joy of a healthy baby, but it doesn’t make the grief any less real.
I totally agree that a very rough L&D or major surgery would create more for a new mom to deal with/think about afterward. That makes total sense. But if the grief is over the birth plan, as opposed to actual physical trauma, that makes less sense to me. I can’t change what has happened to people in the past, but I can advise that perhaps women creating birth plans in the future should be more prepared for things to deviate from their birth plan.
I agree to a very large extent. The experience isn’t as important as the outcome. However, I’d alter it a little. Even if you have a healthy baby, if you’re dealing with an obstetric fistula, incontinence, fourth degree tear, broken symphysis or the aftermath of a traumatic 72 hour labour it’s a bit hard to just “let it go”. The mother’s health and condition post delivery is also very important.
Thank you for writing this article. I want to add a bit of a twist after losing our full term baby. You can read our full story at:http://hurtbyhomebirth.blogspot.com/2012/01/magnuss-story.html
We chose a local birth center for the birth of our second child, convinced it was safe and that we had hired “licensed” professionals, advanced practice nurses who reassured us they knew what to look for and how to get us help we needed. We never put our vision of birth above the safety of our baby or myself for that matter, but did trust that the information we were receiving was complete and accurate. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
We viewed this birth as one that we would attempt, trusting our midwives to recognize signs of danger and TELL us what was going on, to use their professional knowledge to transfer us when/if we needed. This wasn’t a written “birth plan”, but sometimes your “plan” is in your head. My point is that our midwives had a VERY different plan than we did and it cost our son his life.
My heart goes out to you. The loss of a baby anywhere, for any reason, is the worst pain I can imagine.
OK, so after reading the comments, I’ve just got to throw these things out there.
– Infection after your water breaking occurs when you have a vaginal exam. Not just from your water breaking and then the creepy bacteria start making a move! The flow is out and it keeps the bacteria from entering unless they are pushed up there by a cervical exam. It is not necessary to run breathlessly to the hospital as soon as your water breaks. The worst bacteria is actually AT the hospital.
– Yes, there is a thing called ‘Birth Rape’ and some pretty horrific things have happened to women without their consent while birthing a baby. I’m not talking about medical intervention that was necessary, but doctors that discounted women’s wishes for the sake of expediency or convenience for the sake of the doctor. Seeing as some women suffer PTSD from this, it’s not a thing to be taken lightly.
– I didn’t experience that specifically, but going from natural to unplanned C-section with my first daughter (after my water broke at 35 weeks) when I had hoped for something different and had not planned for surgery was a big deal. The added physical recovery and not getting to see my daughter for a full 12 hours after she was born (because I was so doped from the C-section meds and couldn’t move and visit her in the NICU) added a lot to my stress levels and helped me on the way to some severe PPD. I got help and I recovered, but I had trouble bonding with my daughter, a fact that neither of us could help, but medication alleviated after about 6 weeks. It IS traumatic. I’m not being a drama queen about it. It was my reality for that period of time. Please (commenters) don’t discount people’s experiences and write them off as trite or emotional.
– Being more informed the second time around helped and adding a doula and midwives who were my advocates was wonderful. I hoped for a VBAC the second time around and would NOT have had one if the doctors outside my door had gotten their way. It was a long labor (41 hrs), and they were telling my midwife to ‘section that girl!’ and my midwife kept putting them off.
Interestingly, so much of the discussion in the comments of this post seems to go right back to the importance of finding an OB you trust, and who listens to you. My OB/GYN was actually the first doctor I’ve ever had who really listens to me and talks to me like I’m her equal. When my daughter was born, it was her day off, so another doctor in her practice (who was also wonderful- I had researched them as well!) actually delivered her. My doctor came running in wearing workout clothes minutes before my daughter was born and was there to assist with her birth. Her commitment made me feel so good about the entire situation.
I’m sure there are excellent midwives out there too– My ONLY concern if I were thinking about using a midwife would be that if I had to go into the hospital, I’d have to let whatever OB was on call deliver my baby- and that, I have to admit, would stress me out.
How funny about your OB. Mine came tearing in about 10 minutes before my first delivery because he had been stuck in traffic after surgery at another hospital. My husband said, “You’re just in time.” He replied, “Well, I am the professional.” We still throw that line around.
Both my boys were delivered by midwives in a hospital. I felt like I got the best of both worlds–the attention of a midwife in a hospital setting. I’m not sure what it’s like in other states, but in VA and NJ (and in Canada where I’m from) many midwives deliver in hospitals.
I went in to my first birth not having a concrete birth plan. What did I know other than all the scary/silly stuff I had read in a hundred magazines and books? I too thought that scented candles and a CD of my favorite songs was expected! I was sure I’d be looked at like an idiot at the hospital if I didn’t also have my focus picture and my warm socks when I checked in.
When I expressed my concern at not having a plan to my doctor, he pretty much said he had it under control. I didn’t at all feel like I was being coerced, forced or bullied into anything. He had done this quite a few times more than me. My only requests were that I had an epidural as soon as possible (recommended by my husband btw as he had had some surgery that required one) and no c-section unless there were no other options.
I can’t agree enough that you find an OB you trust (and that others trust-ask around). When I expressed concern that he might not be available when I went into labor, he reminded me that while everyone in the group might have a different style, they all had the same philosophy. That gave me confidence that I was in good hands overall.
Actually, I found out he had written my “plan” in my charts. When I was making arrangements for the birth of my second child, the first thing he said was something along the lines of “we’re starting with an epidural and no c-section, is there anything else this time?” Yes, there were no candles, music or socks. I watched the Price is Right with my husband instead.
Interesting “birth center” sidenote- When I was in labor with my son, I noticed that things got noticeably busier out in the hallway at around midnight. I asked my nurse what was going on, she looked at her watch and said, “Oh, it must be the birth center patients. This is generally the time of night when they decide they can’t take it anymore and they want to check into the hospital to have their babies.”
I don’t think it’s so much that women are upset that things didn’t go their way, but that they feel like their bodies betrayed them in some way, that they failed. And that is where the grieving comes in. Perhaps for the mother on TLC, saying it was the worst moment of her life was a reference to this. I felt this to some degree after both of my births (mixed with absolute joy that my children were healthy), and once my hormones evened out I got over it. That mom might have a very different perspective of her birth story after the fact.
As for finding an OB that you like and trust, many MANY women in this country have very limited options based on who their health insurance is through. I was lucky the first time around to have someone I trusted, but not so much the second time (and that was with excellent insurance).
that is all
I’m exactly the sort of person you are talking about. For years after my son’s C-section birth I felt like I had failed him and myself when for some reason he wouldn’t come out after repeated attempts at pushing (with Pitocin and an Epidural). I eventually had general anesthesia and then a C-section after being in labor for about 18 hours. I think it wasn’t just birth plan disappointment, though, that traumatized me, it was some sense of having failed in my duty as a woman to have a vaginal birth, and some fear that in another era we (the baby and me) might both have died. When I got pregnant again I agonized over whether or not to have a scheduled C-section, and I finally decided to do it, and it was a great decision. I was rested, my daughter was in my arms within a few short hours, and she started nursing right away, etc. Now I embrace my double C-section experience and I no longer judge myself for what happened with my son’s birth. I’m also grateful to be living in the 21st century. 100 years ago I probably would have died in childbirth. So thank goodness for modern medicine!
At the same time, I’m never a fan of the “get over it” prescription. Instead, get a good therapist!
I enjoyed reading your post, and I’ve learned a lot on it. thanks much for sharing. 🙂
[…] redshirt my son and got lots of opinions on the subject. I gave my two cents on the Mommy Wars and birth plans, and then I almost got arrested at the Toys R Us. I wrote one of my best posts of the year, I […]