Friday, February 8, 2013

If I Could Turn Back Time: Advice for Rookie Preggos

As my Facebook posts, blog updates and general conversations likely indicate to those of you who know me, my birth experience with William profoundly changed the way I view pregnancy, labor and birth.  It changed me in lots of ways.  Probably the biggest and most important change I experienced was truly being able to "let go and let God."  I really DIDN'T have a choice in a lot of things with Will's pregnancy.  And no matter how much I longed for a "natural" birth, I knew it couldn't happen with him.  So I had to give it to God and trust we'd both be okay.

But through that journey with my little William and in the two years since, I have done some serious soul searching and internet searching, and REsearching on all things pregnancy and birth.  I've learned a great deal of unfortunate things about the American medical establishment and their current cultural view of how babies should enter this world.  I've learned that frequently moms aren't really given choices or options anymore.  They're told what the doc believes is BEST, and they're made to believe that this is their only option.  I've experienced it first hand.  It's sad, to say the least, that because of the tremendous amount of litigation in our culture, doctors are now afraid to "allow" women to birth their children naturally.  Induction is easier.  Sections are easier.  Scheduling is easier.  And though all three of those things increase the risk to mom and baby, and though the c-section rate in the United States is very close to an all-time high, that doesn't change anyone's minds.

Well, in all my reflecting, I've been pondering a list of things I wish I'd known when Mia and Vince were born.  These are just a few of my thoughts... more of them always seem to pop up.  But if you're a new momma, or an older momma who hasn't ever thought about questioning your doctor, I hope maybe my thoughts will at least give you some things to think about.

1) It's okay to say "Thanks. But, NO thanks."  I vividly remember the morning in the hospital when I was in labor with Vince.  I had gone into labor about 4 hours before my scheduled induction and my doc said it was "okay to let me go for awhile without starting pitocin."  But after 3 hours of laboring and continued progression, I guess things just weren't moving fast enough for her.  So she called the resident and said, "Let's start Pitocin to speed things up."  Momma instinct (and having experienced induction with Mia) kicked in and the first thing I said to the resident was, "Can I say, 'no'?"  The dumbfounded resident was all kinds of shocked that I would even suggest saying "no" to my doctor and thus offered me no reassurance.  And I let them start the dreaded Pitocin.  I regret that to this day.  An hour and a half of hell all because my doctor wanted to "speed things up."  LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCT.  YOU CAN SAY NO.

2) Don't trust the scare tactics.  It's so easy in late pregnancy to let your doc convince you that induction is a good idea.  You're tired of being fat.  You can't tie your shoes.  You want to meet your baby.  And if you're past due (like I was with #1 & #2), you've pretty much convinced yourself that baby will never come.  So when the doc tells you "This baby is getting really big,"  or "Your risks get higher and higher the longer we wait," it's easy to believe them.  And it's extra convenient to just get induced.  But induction isn't natural.  It increases your risk for so many things.  And, frankly, the PAIN from pitocin SUCKS.  Don't be scared.  Trust your body.  Your baby will come when your baby is ready.  It's absolutely normal to not have your baby until 42 weeks.  You think you're two weeks over, but on average, you're actually only a few days over when most kiddos arrive.

3) "All the matters is that you have a healthy baby." Sorry to break it to you, folks, that really isn't ALL that matters.  People love to give you this line when you've had a birth experience that was less than ideal.  They say, "But look at that little bundle you have... it's all worth it now."  Unfortunately, that just isn't true.  Birth is a profoundly personal and spiritual experience.  And while it is AMAZING to have that little baby in your arms, the way that baby gets into the world really REALLY does matter.  A traumatic birth experience can cause physical pain for years to come.  But the emotional and mental angst that can be caused by a bad experience, in my opinion, is far worse.  I know mommas who've had PTSD from their births.  I know mommas who can't even consider getting pregnant again because their fears are too high based on their last experience. After everything that went down with Will, of course I felt blessed that he was here, and we both were healthy.  But I still grieved.  I grieved the fact that I didn't get to hold him right away.  I grieved the fact that I had to go home without my baby for 2 weeks.  I grieved the fact that my guts had been cut open and my birth experiences from then on out would not be the same.  And I lived in fear of another pregnancy for a long time.  Could I go through it again?  Would it even be safe?  How much risk was I willing to take?

There are so many more little things that I could write about this.  And I desperately wish sometimes that I could go back to the births of #1 and #2 and tell myself these things.  But I can't do that.  So all I can do is hope that I can help other new mommies be educated.  Yes, you should be able to trust your doctor.  But you should also know that your doctor is human and your doctor has priorities that aren't always 100% in YOUR best interest.  It's okay to question.  It's okay to follow your instinct.  And it's okay to do research even if your doctor says "there are no other options."  You are the momma.  And you need to believe in yourself to know what's best for your baby.  And if you can't decide, then seek out experts to help you.  Find birth professionals like doulas and midwives who believe in natural birth.  Find other moms who have been in your shoes and talk out your fears with them.  You are not the first momma in the world to be worried or to have faced whatever problem you might be facing.  And when you find peace in one of your choices, you'll know which choice to make.


  1. I have to say - I agree with the sentiment, but I disagree with the "all that matters is the healthy baby comment." I get where you're coming from (well, not from personal experience just from reading about it and talking to other moms) and I also know that PTSD and anxiety can happen but I would almost argue that it would happen MORE if you're totally hell-bent on having a "natural" "my way" (no matter what way that might be) kind of birth. Yes, the C-section rate is way high and doctors can try to speed things up without the need to and you can always say "no." But I also think that if you're so worried that they're going to push you into that and make it so you can't have your ideal, spiritual, perfect birth then if it doesn't happen that way you end up grieving too much about what didn't happen the correct way and not being focused on the actual baby. And this isn't focused on you, Kristi. I might not even be arguing my point correctly. Because I totally agree with you about just about everything you've said. But at the same time, I worry that women are so focused on having this "ideal birth experience" the PERFECT birth, that they lose sight of the end goal - having a healthy baby at the end.
    Maybe other comments will clarify me better. Because I'm totally NOT criticizing and again, agree with you about a lot of it: we do have way high of a c-section rate, and induction rates, and I think midwives should totally be used more often (well, in connection with an ob-gyn for the scary, but real possibility that something could go wrong)...and well, on and on.
    But speaking from my experience, where my doctor scheduled an induction because of higher risk to me...I didn't want an induction. But just because I didn't want one - that didn't take away from my end goal of having a healthy baby. That was just more important than having what I wanted as a birth experience.

  2. This is so great. I totally agree, I wish I knew then what I know now. Great post.