09 September 2011

The Birth Experience: Avoiding Disappointment when things don't go as planned

Although I consider myself as having been very well informed of my options when I had my son, I do wish I'd had more time to look into different options. I wish that I had had more friendly connections in the area that could point me to classes or provide me with tips about how to have the birth experience I wanted.

The biggest problem that I encountered was that in going into my pregnancy and labor, I knew I wanted to be as intervention free as possible, but I didn't really know anyone who had had an intervention free birth. The fast majority of the women in my family had epidurals or other medical pain relief. The few friends that I am still in touch with that do have kids had medical interventions (either pain relief or that and a c-section). I researched my options, but had no real life experiences aside from being told by everyone that the "epidural was fantastic".

My labor lasted nearly 3 days, and at the end, I did end up getting the epidural, which I believe ultimately saved me from a c-section because it allowed me to rest up just enough to find the energy to push (though I did have a vacuum assisted birth). I am more informed about birth now, and have experienced it firsthand. There are things I wish I could have changed with my son's birth, but at the end of the day, I'm relieved that I didn't get a c-section and that my son was healthy and at no point during my labor was at any risk. The first thing I probably would have changed was to refuse the vacuum assist and continue to labor on my own. I also would have delayed going into the hospital. However, when we did go in, my contractions were 5 minutes apart steadily for well over an hour. They weren't debilitatingly strong, but strong enough that I couldn't sleep through them. My labor wasn't progressing due to fatigue, and probably a bit due to nerves, stress, and not being able to get comfortable. At the time, I made the best decisions that I could in the situation that I was in.

I was also afraid that I had no idea how fast my labor would progress, and that we wouldn't make it to the hospital in time. I won't be afraid of this next time around. In fact, I'm considering looking into a homebirth next time.

I have heard of women being disappointed with their birth experience, and I think that the lack of sensitivity and empowerment from medical professionals plays a HUGE role in this. As for me, although there were things that I would change in hindsight, I was overall pleased with the care I got, and at no point felt as though the decision was out of my hands (though this likely would have changed if I had had a c-section). When I requested pain relief, the on-duty mid-wife talked to me about alternatives, and it was my choice to go on the pain relief. They made recommendations, and I made the final decision (with my husband's feedback and consideration for what he was comfortable with and thought best as well). And after, when I had my follow up care with my mid-wife post partum, she checked in with me about how I felt about my experience, and wanted to find out if I was feeling any depression or disappointment about my experience. I think that all those factors combined really helped me NOT feel a sense of loss for my birth experience. Although it wasn't what I planned on, it was my decision.

Things I learned from my experience:
  • I need to find a better way to focus through the contractions, whether I take the time to make a play list of music and/or find some sort of program like hypnobabies or something. I plan on doing my reading before I have a second go round at labor.
  • If I decide on another hospital birth, I am not going in until I can.not.talk.during.a.contraction. My mid-wife and the class I took both said 5-minutes apart for over an hour. They didn't say 5-minutes apart and can hardly breathe through them. I was honestly almost a little afraid (and a lot hopeful) that I might be one of those who barely feels the contractions until it's push time. For all I know, I just might be. I still don't know, because I wound up on Pitocin in the hospital.
  • I'm researching the benefits of Pitocin post-partum. My mid-wife said there are studies that show that it helps with post-partum bleeding/hemmoraging and shrinking the uterus back down, but I haven't seen the studies. And I'm going to avoid labor-aiding pitocin at all costs.
  • I will NEVER, EVER agree to have Nubain again. My reaction to the Nubain was really what fueled my immediate need for the epidural.
  • Don't listen to the hospital staff who tells you to push although you don't feel the urge. I was under the impression that she knew what she was talking about and that I just couldn't feel the urge because I had the epidural at that point. I spent an hour pushing when my son was still at -1 station. It wasn't until shortly after she told me to stop pushing that I felt the urge. And even when I told her I felt the urge, she kept telling me not to push and rest at that point. I wish I'd waited for my own body to cue me in, rather than expending all that energy before my body was ready to do its job.
  • It never dawned on me at the time, but I could have refused the vacuum assist. I was so tired at that point, it didn't occur to me. I was really lucky that the vacuum assist worked, because I was told that if it failed, it would "have to" have a c-section. Again, the idea that I could have refused that never occurred to me either.
Despite the very few things that went wrong, a lot more went right:
  • My husband was amazingly supportive, despite the 2+ days of almost no sleep. He really only slept during the few times that I slept. He only ate when I ate (and so I don't think he ate anything at all once I was on Pitocin until after our son was born now that I think about it...). He held my hand through every strong contraction, and was the most amazing cheerleader I could ask for.
  • Any and all interventions that were done were done with fully informed consent. At no point was I told that xyz was my only option. When I requested pain relief, the mid-wife reminded my of my original birth plan and offered alternatives.
  • The hospital I birthed at is very informed and supportive of breastfeeding. One night in the post-partum room, I even heard nurses in the hall lamenting about one of the other new mothers who didn't even want to speak to a lactation consultant to get informed about breastfeeding and just wanted to do formula.
  • I came out of the experience better knowing what I want next time around, what I would do differently, and what I would do the same, but without feeling any regrets about my birth experience.
Lastly, I want to state that although the epidural was what I needed at the time, I would not say that it was "fantastic". In fact, since having the epidural, sometimes my back feels a bit "off" where I had the epidural. Next time I'm hoping for medicine free, whether I homebirth or not.

For the mothers who might be reading, what were your birth experiences like? What things helped you get through the labor? Did you use any particular techniques? Did you have a non-medicated birth? C-Section? If you plan on having another, do you plan to do anything different? Were you happy with your birth experience?

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