Friday, December 31, 2010
The First Birth- No Do-Overs Currently Available
I think every person who supports women in having a great birth hates to hear these words:
"Well, with my next birth I will do XYZ differently, but with this one I can't......"
Some other phrases that drive me mad (or just make me want to impress on the new mother-to-be how important these choices are) are these:
"Maybe for my next birth I will have a home birth, but with this one...."
"I would love to have a doula, but I just can't afford one...."
"I know that hospital has high c-section rates, but it is just so conveniently located..."
"I really don't feel comfortable with my care provider but it is too late to change...."
"Maybe next time I will have a midwife..."
"I really want to take a natural birth class, but my insurance doesn't cover it (doesn't fit in my schedule, maybe with the next one, etc)...."
You get my drift, right?
I am not saying that some people can't afford a home birth, doula, a birth class, or whatever. But it makes me really sad when these things are sacrificed when they COULD be afforded or fit in or made to happen and they are not.
Ladies- I know it is hard. The sad truth though is that you only get to birth THIS baby once.
Might you have other children? Probably! But you only get to give birth to this one once. I realize I just said that twice. I say it twice because it is so important.
You may very well have more children. I have seen plenty of women overcome horrible birth trauma and fear and go onto have a fantastic healing birth. It happens all the time. It is possible and totally worth the effort.
I have also seen women who only take the time to educate themselves AFTER the bad birth experience and then go into the next birth prepared and willing to drive, take a class, read, change care providers, etc. But that doesn't fix the first birth. And - despite all their preparation, fate sometimes steps in.
The sad truth is that there are lots of consequences to an unnecessary c-section or birth trauma that we don't often think of.
One- overcoming a traumatic birth is not easy. Women sometimes find it harder to heal emotionally from a traumatic experience than they had thought possible. How much easier it would have been to simply drive an extra half an hour with the FIRST baby in order to stack the cards in your favor?
Let me give you a tiny personal example (which is not really that traumatic at all, but is however descriptive.)
My first birth was fairly painless. I did however push for about four hours. This was exhausting. When it came time to push out my second (and third for that matter) I totally lost it. The truth is I was simply AFRAID of pushing because it had taken so long. That fear gave me an insane amount of physical pain. Not only that- I thought it was going to last FOREVER. Not rational thoughts for sure, but that first birth certainly impacts the next, and often in unseen emotional ways (either good or bad).
Two- Sometimes the physical consequences of a traumatic birth will also come back to haunt us. (PLEASE- don't get me wrong. VBAC, HBAC, etc are all awesome and can almost always be accomplished. But surgical procedures on women can have lasting consequences. I am absolutely NOT discouraging VBAC- I am encouraging doing everything you can to stack the cards in your favor for that first birth.)
I do not know how many women have a first unnecessary c-section, and then when attempting a VBAC must have a necessary c-section because of something that was altered in their body from the first surgery.
We are sold in our country on the safe effectiveness of surgery. We act like (and doctors sell this hard) there are no bad side effects from an invasive surgery unless you DIE. Death is not the only possibility. Talk to c-section moms. How many have scar pain? How many have other problems? You would be surprised how deep these cuts scar and how totally ignored these women are.
Let me give another personal example (and again, not that big of a deal, but illustrative):
With my first I had an episiotomy which resulted in a second degree tear past the initial cut. It was painful to heal from. I have had two more children since, one a water birth and one squatting at home. I have, with every single birth torn right along side my episiotomy scar. My midwives have told me both times that I would NOT have torn were it not for that first cut.
(Many women do however go on to deliver over an intact perineum after previous deep scar tissue- do you get my point though?)
Three- Negative words are hard to kill.
If your doctor or midwife says things like- "You are not big enough to birth this baby." or "Your pelvis is too small." or "We need to section you for failure to progress, CPD or XYZ" you will remember these words FOREVER.
Some women simply give up on their bodies then. I don't blame them. She has been told by a trained expert who went to school for many, many years, that she is incapable of normal birth. It takes a very strong person indeed to simply question authority that comes from one of our modern day prophets- a medical doctor.
But there are many amazing and powerful women who DO question this authority. But, once they have heard that from a medical person, it is still hard to get that nagging voice out of your head. The alternative: pick a care provider with your FIRST who doesn't talk to women this way, especially when they are at their most vulnerable, pregnant or laboring. If your care provider has already said something like this too you- remember- it is not too late to change until the baby has been BORN.
I want to be very clear- women can and DO go on to have fantastic healing births after an initial trauma or surgery. If that has already happened to you, you are powerful and you can do this.
My message is really for the first time mom who doesn't seem to realize the gravity of the situation. Women who have done this realize how powerful the birth experience is. IT WILL CHANGE YOU. That I can promise. How it changes you is partly up to you and the preparation you put in and the choices you make.
Can you control everything? NO! Absolutely not. I am not saying that you can. But I am saying that you should take the time to prepare and control what you CAN. Then, no matter what happens you can live it without regrets.
Blessings and joy on your journey into new motherhood. Every birth counts.