Why I turned into one of those weirdo granola people who wants to give birth in a barn…

Okay not REALLY. But that’s sort of what I thought about people who went to midwives until ya know… I became one of them.

I debated writing this post for several reasons. First, I’m not sure anyone cares. Second, I hate putting my plans out there in case they just all go to hell and/or I change my mind. Third, it’s a bit beyond my comfort zone of tmi-ness on the blog.

Nevertheless, I feel like I was so clueless prior to getting pregnant and honestly had no idea what my real options were until several weeks ago (already into my third trimester)… so if sharing my thoughts/plans can help someone better understand their options earlier than I did– it just seems worth it. So here we go. (And feel free to just click away if birthing options aren’t your thing!)

When I got pregnant and people started asking me what kind of birth I wanted, I said (only sort of kidding) that I wanted someone to club me over the head and wake me up when it was over. I wanted no part of it. I actually was sort of hoping that I’d need a c-section for some reason… because that just seemed so much easier. My sister in law had one and she had no contractions, no labor pains at all! Check in, get drugged up, 20 minutes later her kid was out! Why would anyone NOT want to do that? No really– I could not for the life of me figure out why anyone would not prefer a c-section to having a kid the old fashioned way. So I just put no thought into it. I had an OB who I’d seen for years for my regular check-ups and I loved her. So I just figured I’d go to her (and I did) and do whatever she told me to do and one way or another (and hopefully with as many drugs as was legal to give me) I’d get this kid out.

But the weird thing was, I started talking to my friends about their experiences giving birth and almost all of them said that they had hoped desperately to avoid c-sections, and a lot of them attempted to go the no-medication/epidural route. And these are smart educated professional women. So I figured they must know something I don’t know, and maybe I ought to do at least A LITTLE research. My research was mostly in the form of internet searches and one highly recommended book- Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth (which for the record was a bit TOO hippy dippy for me, but she still made a lot of excellent points, even if I wasn’t really down with the whole spiritual/empowerment side of things).

After my research I decided I wanted to attempt an unmedicated natural childbirth. Here’s why:

1) C-sections are major surgery, with all the associated risks. It’s amazing that they are available to those who NEED them and they save lots of women’s and babies’ lives– but if you don’t need major surgery, why risk it? Not to mention the fact that recovery is a bitch. Most especially, they don’t want you doing stairs. I live in a freaking 5 level home. If I end up with a c-section I’m going to be pretty much stuck in our bedroom unable to even go get myself food from the kitchen for at least a week or two. That sounds like it would suck.

2) If you get an epidural, you are more likely to need a c-section. There’s a bunch of science behind this and a bit of disagreement, but there seems to be support for the idea (and personally I believe this to be true) that often (not always!) an epidural will slow down your contractions. And then hospitals want to give you pitocin to get things moving. But pitocin makes your contractions worse so then you need even more pain meds, and more pitocin, etc. And pitocin makes your uterus contract harder and longer, which can put the baby in distress moreso than natural contractions. And if the baby is in distress, you need a c-section. It certainly doesn’t happen to all women who get epidurals, or even most. But it seems pretty clear that you are MORE likely to have this problem if you get one.

3) If you get an epidural, you are more likely to need an episiotomy or to tear worse. This is for several reasons. First because it can make it more difficult to listen to your body on when to push and when to stop, and you can end up pushing too hard/fast for your body. Second because it makes your legs numb which means you have to give birth laying on your back in bed, which is generally a more difficult position to give birth in because it literally makes your pelvis smaller than it is in other positions (like standing, squatting, or on all 4s). The idea of any cut or tear in my nether regions sounds completely awful to me, and I’d like to minimize the chance or severity of that sort of thing if at all possible. Less damage = less to heal = less pain in the days/weeks after birth = easier recovery.

There are a bunch of other reasons people cite for wanting an unmedicated birth, such as concerns about drugs getting through to the baby, fears of reduced ability to bond afterwards, wanting the spiritual/empowering experience of doing it sans meds, etc. I don’t really have any desire to have an “experience” here so I don’t care about that– and all my friends who had an epidural seemed to bond just fine with their babies who were perfectly healthy– so I’m not quite sure I buy that much into all that. But basically, I believe that an unmedicated birth, while harder, will allow me to have an easier recovery and it seems worth it to me to trade a day of pain for several weeks of easier recovery. (In theory anyways..)

So once I decided that I wanted to try for an unmedicated birth I talked to my doctor. I LOVE her and I have never had an issue with her at all, but I did not love her answer… which was that if I REALLY wanted to go sans meds I could but “you don’t get a gold star for torturing yourself.” I was really disappointed because I am dead set on delivering in the hospital. I still think the hospital is the safest place to be in case of an unforeseen emergency during birth or for my baby once she is born, and I thought that if I wanted to give birth in the hospital then the OB was my only choice. I always thought of people going to midwives when they wanted to have a home birth or wanted to go to one of those birthing centers– and I just knew that was not for me. I worry way too much to give birth anywhere but a hospital.

Amazingly though, I found out that there is a midwife practice in my city that has their patients deliver in the exact same hospital I was already planning to go to! How did I not even know they exist?! (Because I never bothered to google and find out basically!) Midwives give the exact same prenatal care as OBs do. They still watch out for complications and if anything goes sideways– you get a doc. But they are specialists in “normal birth.” They also will support my decision to get an epidural if I decide at any point that I want one (and I’m not counting out the possibility that 2 hours in I’ll be like f this— give me ALL OF THE DRUGS NOW PLZ). But the big thing is– they support TRYING for an unmedicated birth. They stay with you the entire time you are in labor. They provide counter pressure and massage to help ease pain, they suggest labor positions that may relieve pressure, and they allow you to labor in the shower and in a birthing tub. And basically– they get results. The c-section rate for women checking into my hospital through the OB practice and expecting vaginal birth is almost 30%. The c-section rate for first time moms at the same hospital working with a midwife is less than 10%. They also boast an episiotomy rate of less than 5%. Being able to work with them but still be in a hospital in case any complications pop up seems like the absolute best of both worlds to me, so that is what I’m doing.

Still though, I get why people look at me sideways when I mention I’m going to a midwife. A month ago I would’ve done the same thing. And that is why I wanted to write this post encouraging people to look at their options earlier in pregnancy than I did. I don’t know that I’ll succeed in having a med-free birth, and I don’t have any pride wrapped up in “toughing it out.” I’m not trying for a “gold star.” But I do see the benefits of at least planning for a med-free birth and making it a goal, whether I succeed or not. And honestly without the support and help of the midwives I think my chances of success on this would be pretty slim because I’m sure if my doc was popping in going “are you sure you don’t want an epidural now…?” I’d be like ZOMGYES. But with them..? I’m giving myself 50/50 odds. I honestly don’t know a single person in real life who has been successful in going med-free, despite lots of people trying. So I won’t beat myself up at all if it is what I need to do. But I see the value in trying.

So… that’s my (super long winded omg) plan. Anyone out there actually make it through birth med free? Or anyone planning a med free birth for themselves?

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2 thoughts on “Why I turned into one of those weirdo granola people who wants to give birth in a barn…

  1. I love this post! I had a similar experience as you have so far – I didn’t put much thought into it until the very end (seriously, I was like 35 weeks pregnant when I watched The Business of Being Born) and then I got very into the idea of a med-free birth. I had all the exact same concerns as you, and I was dead set on no epidural. Until I felt the contractions. So, um, yeah, I didn’t survive med-free and totally went for the epidural, and it was a great decision for me in the end. I think as long as you go into it with an open mind and don’t beat yourself up if you end up asking for medication, you’ll be happy with how things go! And I think it’s awesome you were able to find a midwife practice in your hospital!

  2. I went with the same setup – midwife in a hospital – and LOVED it. I didn’t make it completely med free – they gave me some fentynol at the end when I started asking for drugs please, eff the gold star! And it worked great for me. It still hurt but contractions no longer threatened to be “too much”. I was really worried too because my water broke first (did NOT expect that!) and I had to have a few doses of Cervadil to get labor going. I had it in my head that I could probably handle normal contractions but that induced ones would be too bad so I was happy I came out with the birth I did. Also, I didn’t have a big tub to labor in, it was normal sized, but the shower head held on my lower back was my best friend and got me through transition.
    My biggest advise though, tell your labor partner. Any ideas I had about positions to try or techniques to use went out the window once it got real. The only ones utilized were things I had told him to try before hand or spontaneous ideas. Such a rush! Good luck! It’s fun to look back on and totally worth it!

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